Blow for epileptic children as surgery ‘to end at LGI’

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Specialised neurosurgery for children with epilepsy looks set to end at Leeds General Infirmary as part of a national overhaul of services.

It is understood that a consultation by Safe and Sustainable, the body which headed the controversial review into children’s heart surgery, has recommended paediatric neurosurgery should be carried out at four dedicated centres.

Doctors in Leeds say children will be forced to travel to London, Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool for the surgery.

And they fear cutting children’s surgery could have a knock-on impact on the procedures for adults. Experts say Leeds was one of the biggest providers of the neurosurgery for children with epliepsy outside London.

Dr Colin Ferrie, consultant paediatric neurologist, said: “From our personal experience we know that getting some families from Bradford to come to Leeds is hard enough. Many children will not have epilepsy surgery because the families will not be able to travel
to London, Manchester or Liverpool.

“There is a significant danger that the existing service in Leeds will become a secondary type service. It could have a possible knock-on effect for adults as

Leeds submitted a bid to become one of the dedicated centres for paediatric neurosurgery after forming a consortium with Newcastle and Sheffield. But the efforts failed because they could not agree which centre should be the lead.

Councillors will investigate after they received a letter from Dr Ferrie and his colleague.

Dr Bryan Gill, medical director for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We’re working very hard on the whole issue of neurological services.

“We recognise epilepsy was 
relatively small but this has significant overtones of everything to do with children’s heart surgery.”

Coun Sandy Lay told Leeds City Council’s health, well-being and adult social care scrutiny board: “Is there a theme developing whereby under this Safe and Sustainable Review Leeds keeps getting marginalised? I don’t understand why we keep missing out.”

A spokesperson for the NHS England area team in West Yorkshire said: “The agreed national service model is that epilepsy surgery for children five years of age and under is performed in one of the four specialist centres.

“Where epilepsy surgery in children is being considered, all cases are discussed and reviewed by the multidisciplinary team in the specialist centre. For children six years of age and over the agreed clinical management plan may include a decision that the surgery is undertaken locally. There could be surgery undertaken in Leeds where the child is aged 6 and over.

“The review is concerned with children’s surgery only and no changes to services for adults requiring surgery will be made.”

The controversial plans to axe heart operations for youngsters at the LGI were halted by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after an independent report heavily criticised the Safe and Sustainable review into a reconfiguration of care across the country.