Countdown to legal action over heart unit

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds say they have taken legal action to “protect lives”.

A rally in Leeds last summer in support of the Leeds General Infirmary Children's Heart Unit.

Next week a judicial review is to be heard to challenge the closure of the Leeds General Infirmary unit.

Campaign group Save Our Surgery launched the action following the decision by NHS body the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which was announced in July, and say the move was their “last resort”.

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Sharon Cheng, of Save Our Surgery, said: “We understand and agree with the need to consolidate children’s heart surgery services into fewer centres of excellence.

“However, closing Leeds and forcing families to travel for hours makes no sense. Leeds has routinely been rated as excellent and has all the facilities needed by critically ill children and their families on one site.

“At the end of the day, this is about protecting the lives of children and this is why we believe that the challenge to NHS officials should be heard.”

Lawyers will claim there was a lack of transparency and errors in an assessment of the unit.

The result of the legal case, due to last two days, is unlikely to be announced immediately.

Sir Neil McKay, chair of the JCPCT, said they had listened to the public and experts.

“I do not deny the right of citizens to challenge decision-makers when it is right to do so, and I know Leeds and the county of Yorkshire well – I was once chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

“I have no doubt that the LGI will continue to provide high quality specialist care for children with congenital heart disease – it is only the surgical and interventional aspect of treatment that will cease. Royal colleges of medicine have welcomed our decision as one that will save more children’s lives in the future, and we stand ready to defend our process with confidence.”

A separate review is to conclude by March, though the outcome may not be known until May.