Uncertainty over heart surgery must end says Archbishop

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THE Archbishop of York has called for an end to the uncertainty surrounding the future of children’s heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, saying the decision to suspend operations will gravely affect young patients and their families.

The hospital, which is engulfed in a long-running row over the future of its children’s heart services, is conducting an internal review after data suggested a death rate twice the national average. Doubts have been cast over the reliability of the mortality figures after it emerged they did not include scores of operations carried out by the unit.

Dr John Sentamu, who has backed a campaign to keep the surgery in Leeds, visited the unit on Saturday in a “pilgrimage of prayer and trust” amid a hectic Easter schedule which included the seventh annual open air baptisms in York where 11 worshippers from received full immersion outside the Minster.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “I don’t think what has happened is sinister, but it is very worrying and I would be heartbroken if what I first saw when I visited the unit two months ago was not being provided. I saw nothing but clinical excellence then and I saw nothing different today.

”What has surprised me is that this data is being disputed and has not yet been properly analysed. Should it not have been analysed before being made public?

“There is absolute commitment by the entire medical team at the hospital to do their best for families, but there is anxiety, concern, worry. For three years, they have been beleaguered by the Sword of Damocles hanging over them, fearing the unit will be closed.”

Elspeth Brown, a consultant cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, claimed the mortality data was “incomplete” with just 180 operations out of more than 300 in the unit being considered. But NHS England’s medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, said the figures were among a “constellation of reasons” to suspend operations.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk