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UPDATED: Children's heart surgery to end at Yorkshire hospital
CHILDREN from York and North Yorkshire who need life-saving heart surgery will be forced to travel to Newcastle for treatment after health bosses controversially decided to end operations in Leeds.
The NHS confirmed tonight that the paediatric surgery centre at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) will be a victim of a move to “streamline” provision across the UK - but campaigners have vowed to fight on.
The decision, made after a marathon meeting of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts today, means children from the region face having to make a two-hour trip to Newcastle for treatment.
The plans had been criticised by parents whose children are or have been treated at Leeds, as well as heart doctors and MPs from all parties, and more than 600,000 people signed a petition calling for operations to remain at LGI.
The NHS has said it wants to concentrate specialist equipment and expertise at fewer centres as services are currently spread too thinly.
Heart surgery will be stopped at three of the ten hospitals where procedures are currently performed, with Leicester and London’s Royal Brompton Hospital also affected.
Twelve options were discussed by the committee today. The units where surgery will end will remain open for diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment, and are expected to keep providing specialist surgery throughout 2013 while detailed plans for the changes are drawn up.
Myriam Barker, 39, from York, whose five-year-old daughter Margaux had open heart surgery at LGI which saved her life after she was diagnosed with a condition called an atrial septal defect, called the news “very disappointing” but said: “We will continue to campaign - 600,000 people are behind us and we still have very, very strong points to make.”
She said the decision was a close one, hence the long meeting, and said: “We are going to carry on putting our points across and we hope we can change the NHS’ mind - this is not the end.”
Emma Mallett, 14, from York, survived a serious defect of the aorta as a six-year-old after being treated at LGI, and her father Simon said: “I hope this decision will now be referred to the Government to decide surgery should remain at Leeds, and it makes a different decision.
“If this process was starting again now, Leeds would be an obvious choice for a unit, so the campaign, with cross-party support, will undoubtedly continue.”
Committee chairman Sir Neil McKay said the streamlining of services was “a landmark decision” which would improve care for children with congenital heart disease.
He said: “The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review and we only took the decision after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process.”
He said the decisions were difficult and some people would be disappointed, but said: “We strongly believe our decision is in the best interests of all children and will ensure services are safe and sustainable for the future.”
Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, claimed the LGI decision lacked “clinical logic” and had “ignored co-location and patient choice”. She said they would now be appealing to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.