Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Delight for heart surgery campaigners after "landmark" ruling
CAMPAIGNERS who have fought the NHS proposals to end child heart surgery in Leeds have hailed today's High Court ruling as "brilliant news".
Simon Mallett, from York, whose daughter Emma's treatment at Leeds General Infirmary saw her survive a serious defect of the aorta as a six-year-old, said: "It gives us hope that the unit will keep providing surgery, which is what everybody has been campaigning for.
"Hopefully, today's ruling will result in [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt making the decision that the future of surgery in Leeds is secured. It's a tremendous day for everybody who has campaigned, and while it is not the end of the fight, it is a major step in the right direction."
Gill Bell, from Huntington, was among those who raised money for the fighting fund as Freya Popplewell, the six-year-old daughter of her friend Di Popplewell, is on the waiting list for an operation at LGI. She said: "It's brilliant news as this ruling proves the NHS assessment was wrong.
"It makes all the fundraising and all the hard work worthwhile and it is absolutely the right decision. Surgery surely cannot end in Leeds now.
"You don't always realise how important this is until somebody you love and you care about needs this facility, and how losing it might affect you one day. This campaign is for future generations and we hope this means child heart surgery will stay in Leeds, where it should be."
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who has previously criticised the JCPT decision, said ending child heart surgery in Leeds would be "utterly unjustified and unethical without the full facts being properly considered".
“I visited the unit to see the lifesaving work it is taking on on a daily basis. These hardworking NHS staff are doing incredible work. The unit serves the whole region and has saved the lives of so many across Yorkshire and further afield over the years.
“I hope the Independent Review which has been set up to re-examine the provision of heart surgery across the country is carried out properly and makes its decisions based on hard evidence. It is vital that the right decisions are made, as this will determine how children with congenital heart disease are treated for decades to come – we cannot afford to rush and make a bodge job of this."
The Archbishop also sent his "deep thanks" to those who helped fund the SOS legal challenge and for "trusting all the clinicians at the unit".
York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear the High Court have ruled in favour of the Save Our Surgery campaign and have found the JCPCT’s original decision to be flawed.
"This is testament to the hard work of families from across Yorkshire who have been campaigning tirelessly. It seems clear the High Court’s decision is in agreement with the campaigners who believe the JCPCT treated the Safe and Sustainable review as a ‘rubber-stamping’ process to achieve a predetermined outcome.
"The ramifications of the Court’s decision are still unknown and there is very clearly a lot of work still to be done. However, today’s decision is a fantastic step in the right direction and a vindication for all those who passionately believe the Leeds unit should have a future. It’s clearly cause for celebration.”
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said the High Court outcome was a "landmark ruling" for heart surgery in Leeds, saying the NHS plans "have been stopped in their tracks".
"The campaigners made a professional case during the judicial review and had the support of MPs of all political parties, including myself, and I am pleased to see the High Court has recognised the process for making the decision was flawed," he said.
"The impact of population numbers and travel times and patterns simply needed far more weight in this review. I want to see the Leeds unit continue its excellent work."
Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council's cabinet member for health, said: "I'm delighted for all those involved in the SOS campaign, many of whom have experienced the work of the unit and understand why it is needed in this region.
"While the judicial review does not ultimately mean heart surgery at the unit will definitely be retained, it does mean the evidence used in the decision, and any more which has since come to light, can be reviewed to ensure any decision taken is sound and just."
However, Professor Terence Stephenson, chairman of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, said: "The Academy recognised the Safe and Sustainable review cconcluded fewer larger surgical centres and the development of local networks of care will improve cardiac services for children.
"Change remains a matter of urgency – patients have waited too long for improvements to be made.”