Heart unit closure ‘opposed by doctors’

A LETTER signed by 170 doctors from across Yorkshire protesting against the plan to end children’s heart surgery in Leeds proves the decision “does not enjoy clinical support,” says an MP.

Conservative backbencher Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole, told Ministers that claims the controversial review of children’s heart services was clinically-led were “simply not true”.

The letter, written by Leeds doctor Mark Darowski, was made public last month. It sparked a furious row after it was dismissed by the director who led the original review as the work of “vested interests”.

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But speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Percy said the letter was significant because it showed the lack of clinical support for the plan to close the Leeds heart unit and send its young patients hundreds of miles to Newcastle.

“One-hundred-and-seventy clinicians from across Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire have written to express their dismay at the decision, stating that for time-critical transfers it ‘exposes a number of children to the risk of death’ - largely because it will require transfers to Newcastle,” the Tory MP said.

“Does that not prove that the decision does not enjoy clinical support in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, and that it is simply not true that this has been a clinically led review?”

In response, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had seen the letter, but could not comment while a review of the original decision is ongoing. He will make a final decision once that process has concluded at the end of March.

“I have seen the letter... and I understand that these are extremely complex issues,” Mr Hunt said.

“Let me reassure (Mr Percy) that when I take my final decision, it will be on a clinically-led basis.

“I will do that when I have received the report, which I am due to receive by March 28.”