The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has put forward a solution to end the controversy over closing surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary.
It would see a recent decision by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) implemented elsewhere in England except in north-eastern England where both Leeds and Newcastle would be kept open, with a decision on their future delayed until April 2014.
This compromise would provide an opportunity for the patients and parents who require these services to exercise their constitutional right to patient choice and determine which centre they wish to access. By the end of this period, each centre would have to demonstrate that they are fully compliant with all of the standards set by Safe and Sustainable.
This Solution would only amount to a one-year pause, given that the reconfiguration of all children’s heart surgery centres in England is not due to commence implementation until April 2014 and a decision taken on Newcastle and Leeds at that time could be implemented from April 2015.
The JCPCT has been advised that it would take 8 to 10 years to move cardiac transplant services from Newcastle and has decided that the Unit there should stay open, regardless of the fact that it will not be able to deliver 400 operations, as evidenced by the independent analysis of patient flows. If after the one year pause commissioners did not think Newcastle had sufficient workload to meet this requirement, the Leeds Unit would explore how they could support in conjunction with Newcastle.
Sharon Cheng, Director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, 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.
Although we believe the process, the evidence and the decision taken by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to end children’s heart surgery at the Leeds Unit are flawed, we recognise that a decision by the Secretary of State to override this outcome and close Newcastle whilst keeping the Leeds Unit open would create further difficulties, including a likely Judicial Review application from Newcastle.
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 that 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 this Government’s DoH that patient choice will come ahead of professional convenience and NHS politics.
Last year more than 600,000 people from across Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire signed a petition supporting the children’s heart unit at the LGI, which provides life-saving surgery to hundreds of children in Yorkshire and the Humber and beyond, annually. The campaign has continued to receive cross party political support from MPs who have already begun leading the debate in the House of Commons.