Expert review paves way for heart surgery to resume next week

EXPERTS were today reviewing data and care at Leeds children’s heart surgery unit in a bid to enable surgery to restart next week.

MP Greg Mulholland Leeds General Infirmary

Campaigners welcomed the news yesterday that, a week after surgery was suspended, operations at Leeds General Infirmary could resume, subject to independent checks.

National NHS bosses said this included outside experts validating figures provided by Leeds hospitals. Reviewers will also ensure services are of the same standard as at other units across the country, as well as looking at policies and any recent complaints.

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Ian Dalton, deputy chief executive and chief operating officer of NHS England, said: “We expect this work to be completed over the next few days and a conclusion reached early next week.

MP Greg Mulholland Leeds General Infirmary

“I want to be absolutely clear that throughout this process the entire focus has been on the safety of children. We are working round the clock to resolve this matter as quickly as we possibly can. In the meantime we are ensuring that children can get the care they need elsewhere.”

Supporters of the LGI service were dismayed when surgery was suspended just over a week ago over previously-unpublished mortality rate data.

Following a meeting between Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, officials from NHS England, watchdog the Care Quality Commission and the Trust Development Authority - which oversees the performance of NHS trusts, it was announced all parties would work over the weekend in a bid to enable surgery to begin again.

Sharon Cheng, of campaign group Save Our Surgery, said: “Many children are reliant on the Leeds unit for urgent or on-going treatment, so the sooner normal service can be resumed, the better.”

The Government now faces growing calls for an inquiry into the way the affair has been handled – with the suspension having taken place 24 hours after a High Court judge overturned a decision to close the LGI service as part of a national shake-up.

The decision to suspend the surgery was revealed when NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh visited St James’s Hospital just over a week ago with new mortality data, along with other concerns.

However, the organisation which put the data together later criticised its use and said it was “not fit to be looked at” by anyone outside the specialist committee which compiled it.

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to investigate.

He said: “A full investigation by the Secretary of State now has to take place and assurances have to be given that the continuing review will be undertaken in a fair and impartial way.”

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew said he understood the controversial data had been reconsidered – and mortality rates in Leeds were not above the national average.

“I think it was disproportionate action,” he said. “If you are going to close down a unit, you need rock solid evidence, and that was not there.”

He is calling for an inquiry by the Parliamentary Health Committee, and added he has expressed concerns over the past week’s events to the chair of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which is reviewing changes to child heart surgery.

“It feels like it’s been covered in a shroud and I want it to be out in the open,” he added.