February D-day for children’s heart unit decision

THE date for a judicial review into controversial plans to move children’s heart surgery services out of our region has been set for February 11.

The hearing, which is expected to last two days, was brought by the Save Our Surgery (SOS) campaign and will look into recommendations by the NHS’s Safe and Sustainable review to move the life-saving service from Leeds General Infirmary to Newcastle.

As well as the high court proceedings, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to investigate the process and report back to him.

SOS asked that the judicial review be paused until after the IRP review was completed in order to try and avoid court action and the costs associated but failed to secure a temporary halt.

The group described as “absurd” suggestions by Sir Neil McKay, chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, that SOS was using delaying tactics.

Sir Neil said: “We welcome the court’s decision to grant the judicial review process an urgent hearing. Not only did the High Court reject the campaign group’s delaying tactics, but it supported our argument that further delay was contrary to the interests of children with congenital heart disease, and their families.”

Sharon Cheng, of SOS, said: “Last month, we were informed that the court would hear our case against the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts in mid-February and proceedings are progressing in line with those timings.

“Legal action remains our least preferred option due to the associated costs to both sides. We began judicial review proceedings extremely reluctantly and only after all other options were rejected by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts.

“This was the rationale behind our recent request to postpone our legal case until after the independent review requested by the Health Secretary was complete. To imply that we would seek a delay for any other reason is absurd.”

Meanwhile, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, will be wearing red on Friday in support of the SOS campaign.

Mr Jones will be wearing red along with his office staff, and is encouraging other local businesses and schools to do so. The Wear It Red day, run by the SOS campaign, is intended not only to raise vital funds but also awareness as to the unit's plight.

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