Minister confirms review of heart surgery closures

Health Ministers have confirmed an independent panel is set to review the planned closure of the children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds amid widespread anger among Yorkshire MPs.

A formal representation has been made to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley by local authorities in Yorkshire concerned at the proposal to end paediatric heart services at Leeds General Infirmary.

Health Minister Simon Burns said Mr Lansley would now “almost certainly” refer the concerns to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) for consideration.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The facility at Leeds was one of three specialist units earmarked for closure following a review of children’s heart services, requiring patients to travel to Newcastle for life-saving operations instead

The changes also include the end of surgery at the Royal Brompton, London, and Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, after the NHS review decided having 10 units spread expertise too thin.

But in the Commons, MPs condemned the review and urged Ministers to step in with a rethink.

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland described the original decision as “increasingly discredited” and said there were “serious questions” about the way the decision was made.

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew attacked the panel for “ignoring a petition of 600,000 people, saying it just counted as one, when 22,000 text messages received in support of Birmingham were counted as 22,000 separate responses.”

He went on: “This is an issue of grave concern to thousands of people, literally hundreds of thousands of people in the Yorkshire region, and we are not going to give up in our fight to save our unit.”

Colne Valley MP Jason Mc Cartney said he hoped Mr Lansley “will revisit the decision” following the referral to the IRP and added: “There is this assumption all the patients at the Leeds unit will automatically migrate to Newcastle, and I think that’s a big flaw in the assessment made here.”

Mr Burns said he recognised the strength of feeling and emotion on the subject, and understood the reorganisation of children’s cardiac services was a matter of “real concern” for families involved.

But he added: “Clinical experts and national parent groups have repeatedly called for change and there is an overwhelming feeling the time for change is long overdue.

“As passionately as people want to defend their hospitals, far more important is to ensure the safety and quality of care for all children with congenital heart disease.”