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1,000 rally against heart surgery decision
PARENTS, health workers and politicians united in a huge march and demonstration against the controversial NHS decision to move child heart surgery services from Yorkshire to Newcastle.
“We will not be moved” was the message from every speaker in Millennium Square in Leeds yesterday, to the cheers of the thousand-plus crowd of protesters who travelled to the event from throughout the region.
One of the youngest was 11-week-old Joshua Davidson from Easingwold who had heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) six days after he was born with a narrowed aorta and a hole in the heart.
His mother Kirsty, 39, said: “Leeds just has everything on site. They have accommodation for parents and they make it easy for families to stay together. I have a four-year-old daughter too and if services were in Newcastle it would have been impossible for her to visit as much as in Leeds. The family thing is very important.”
York mum Jacqui Scott, whose son Cameron also had surgery at LGI, said: “We are here today because the surgery service needs to stay in Leeds. It’s saved my son’s life and we need this service here.”
Speaker and Labour MP Hilary Benn said: “It’s a fantastic turnout from right across the region, including York, and the message is that we are not giving up.”
Conservative MP Stuart Andrew, from Pudsey, said the cause had excellent cross-party support.
“We aren’t going to give up the fight,” he told the crowd.
The protest and march came ahead of today’s meeting between Sir Neil McKay, the man behind the decision to end the service at Leeds, and a joint health watchdog made up of councillors from throughout the region.
The group is expected to question Sir Neil over the decision and has already asked for health secretary Andrew Lansley to save Leeds.
However, Professor Sir Roger Boyle CBE, former clinical director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said the NHS was right its decision to pool expertise in fewer centres around the UK.
In response to the demo, he said: “I recognise that people have shown a huge loyalty for the hospital in Leeds but pooling surgical expertise means the clinical community can work together, develop new techniques and deliver improved care to keep more children with complex heart conditions alive.”