Leeds Campaigners Awaiting New Children’s Heart Unit Decision

Leeds Campaigners Awaiting New Children’s Heart Unit Decision

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Medical law experts in Leeds, who have previously shared concerns over plans to close a children’s heart surgery unit, have welcomed a ruling to review the decision which could see the centre saved.

In July health officials acting for primary care trusts across England and Wales decided Leeds should stop surgery so care could be concentrated at fewer sites.

Many people are campaigning against this decision including patients, charities and MPs, as it would mean heart patients currently using the West Yorkshire site would have to travel as far as Newcastle or Liverpool to be treated.

The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee watchdog, which represents councils across Yorkshire and the Humber region, has now ruled the decision should be looked at again giving hope to campaigners that the unit could be saved. They have referred the decision to the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley.

Sarah Coles, a specialist in the medical law and patients’ rights team at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, said: “It is good news that the decision is set to be reviewed.

“We welcome all efforts to improve access to the best care possible but there are many aspects of the decision to close the children’s heart unit in Leeds which cause concern and could cause major disruption for families.

“Some patients may simply be unable to travel the extra distance in an emergency situation which could reduce the chances of them being able to access the vital care they need.

“In our experience many people often need to go through long stays in hospital when their children are being treated. If the unit is closed it may cause unnecessary strain on families as parents are forced to stay in units a long way from home without the vital support of having their friends and loved ones around them.

“We hope that the authorities will acknowledge the outcry this decision has caused and reassess whether it is in the best interests of patients.”

The specialist unit at Leeds General Infirmary was set to be closed along with similar centres at the Royal Brompton Hospital in west London and the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. This was following an NHS review which said the quality of these services would be improved if expertise was concentrated at fewer sites across the UK.

But campaigners have expressed concern about the impact the changes would have on many families who rely on such services and would find travelling difficult.