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Fresh plan to save children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds
THE loss of children’s heart surgery services in our region could be avoided under a plan by the campaign group which is fighting the decision to move operations to Newcastle.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) is asking for a compromise which would see the unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) stay open. The plan would also see a final decision delayed until April 2014.
CHSF director Sharon Cheng said: “We believe that the only way to ensure a truly safe and sustainable children’s heart surgery service for children in our region is to maintain the unit at the General Infirmary in Leeds.
“This is centrally located for the population it serves; provides the ideal customer service model, with all associated medical and maternity services under one roof; and lies at the heart of a network regarded as ‘excellent’ by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy’s independent expert panel.”
While the CHSF is also considering mounting a legal battle to save Leeds, Miss Cheng said she wanted to avoid Newcastle losing its own heart surgery service, which could in turn lead to a legal challenge from the north-east.
She said: “The compromise has many advantages: it avoids the risk of costly judicial action from supporters of either unit, which could sink the review in its entirety.
“Leeds and Newcastle will have the opportunity to demonstrate their compliance with Safe and Sustainable standards.
“It shows the Government is listening to the concerns of patients and the public in Yorkshire and the Humber, and responding accordingly and it gives a clear message from the Department of Health that patient choice will come ahead of professional convenience and NHS politics.” The proposal has now been sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, local charities and the group of Yorkshire MPs backing the fight to keep the LGI unit performing surgery.
Meanwhile, Safe and Sustainable, the NHS organisation which made the decision to move surgery from Leeds, said it was aware the CHSF was considering legal action.
A spokesman said: “Lawyers representing the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund have taken the first steps in a judicial review by informing the JCPCT (Joint Committee of Pimrary Care Trusts) that legal action will be brought if the JCPCT does not agree to quash its decision by September 21.
“Since then we have received no further correspondence from the CHSF’s lawyers. Our response to CHSF’s lawyers will be issued in the next few days and will address the points raised by the CHSF following careful consideration.”