Inquiry into heart unit surgery suspension rejected

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the Government has rejected calls for an inquiry into the suspension of work at Yorkshire’s children’s heart surgery unit.

Operations at Leeds General Infirmary unit will resume today following the unit’s closure nearly two weeks ago amid concerns among NHS chiefs over figures which appeared to suggest death rates double the average, triggering a review which uncovered no significant safety concerns.

Campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS), which won a High Court challenge over plans to close the unit, yesterday stepped up calls for an inquiry, describing the suspension as “NHS politics at its worst”.

Sharon Cheng, from SOS, said NHS chiefs wanted the Leeds unit closed and “in so doing, they used a number of what have proved to be completely unwarranted excuses”. Claims about problems with staffing had been acknowledged as unfounded and complaints were at a level of one per 2,000 patient contacts.

“Given that the suspension potentially put patients at risk, has caused huge inconvenience and added stress to the families of children who have had to be treated elsewhere, and created unnecessary worries and fears amongst previous patients’ families, questions must be asked as to why operations were suspended in the first place,” she said.

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “NHS England was right to raise serious issues with the trust, and for everyone involved to act on the basis that patient safety was paramount. We have no plans to hold an inquiry.”

Yesterday, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh blamed the suspension on the hospital for submitting poor data to a national audit. Key details about patient weights were missing in a third of cases, he claimed.

Alex Brook, aged 22 months, of Normanton, near Wakefield, is likely to be the first to have surgery in the reopened unit. He was born with a hole in the heart and has already had one operation there.

His mother Sue said: “It’s been an anxious time waiting to hear what will happen and we had to be delayed coming in. We know the hospital very well and I’ve every faith in the team.”