Parents, MPs and medical staff have hit back at a decision to end heart surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary. Decision makers met yesterday to deliver a verdict which will see parents in Yorkshire and the Humber forced to travel to Newcastle for treatment.
The panel of experts chose Option B as the highest scoring option in a national review of children’s heart surgery provision. This option means the Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle Unit would be left to serve the north of England instead of Leeds.
The second highest scoring option was G which listed Leeds instead of Newcastle to serve the north of the country. The scoring between B and G was marginal and there remain outstanding questions on process, patient choice, quality and delivery.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, trustees and hospital staff have already begun working closely with MPs to secure an immediate review of the decision. Campaigners propose both Leeds and Newcastle are left open to continue surgery, giving both centres reasonable time to implement the standards recommended by the review.
This would allow the process to move ahead without further delay to the rest of the country, and whilst not denying patients in Yorkshire and the Humber to make the choices to which they are entitled.
Sharon Cheng, Director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, the charity working with hospital directors and patients to fight to keep the Unit in Leeds, said:
Services should be commissioned on behalf of patients but in this instance, this simply has not been the case and decision makers have failed to listen to the overwhelming voice of people in Yorkshire and the Humber.
The legal rights of parents to choose where they want to receive care were blatantly disregarded by decision makers. Parents have already told us they will not travel to Newcastle to access services and decision makers failed to understand that access to these services is a key quality issue for families. Instead they have been dismissed simply as travel times and cost implication but it is far wider than this. This is backed by an independent report and there is a genuine fear that Newcastle does not meet the necessary standard which would leave a gaping hole in future provision for this region.
We will appeal this decision immediately and are in the process of taking legal advice. We are urging parents to write to their local MPs and to Andrew Lansley’s office directly to express their dismay at the decision and urge him to take action.