Archbishop backs campaign 
to keep child heart surgery

The Archbishop of York holds baby Eathan Hudson, watched by mum Charlotte.
The Archbishop of York holds baby Eathan Hudson, watched by mum Charlotte.
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THE Archbishop of York has backed the fight to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds as he met young patients at the under-threat unit.

John Sentamu said he was pleased campaigners had started a legal challenge against the controversial plan and said NHS trusts should not be “played off against one another”.

Following a visit to the Leeds General Infirmary ward, set to be stripped of its paediatric cardiac surgery service, he said: “The evidence does not support the decision. It is inconceivable that we could lose such a fantastic integrated local service.”

In July NHS heads decided children’s heart surgery should be stopped in Leeds, with most Yorkshire patients expected to travel to Newcastle instead.

The decision is now being reviewed by an independent panel, while the legal challenge will be heard next month.

Dr Sentamu, who revealed he had privately expressed support for the unit to Government ministers, said: “I’m very grateful that they are to go to court in order for the facts to come out, and I’m grateful that the Secretary of State has decided to have an independent review.

“The families can’t speak highly enough of this place.”

Yesterday he met young patients, including 12-week-old Jacob Layton who had heart surgery after he had to be resuscitated three times because of a rare condition.

His mum Vanessa Robinson, from Ryhill near Wakefield, said having to travel to Newcastle would be “hell”.

The archbishop also spoke to parents Lydia Linton and Mark Seddon from Sheffield, whose baby Lewis had surgery last Friday, who were concerned at the four-hour journey they would face to Newcastle.

Following the visit, Sir Neil McKay, chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts which made the decision, said all views expressed during a public consultation were taken into account by decision-makers.