Heart fight is not over

Heart patient Alfie Holland, 19 months old, from Batley, on Ward 10, the children's cardiac ward at the LGI.
Heart patient Alfie Holland, 19 months old, from Batley, on Ward 10, the children's cardiac ward at the LGI.

CAMPAIGNERS are vowing to continue their fight to save a local heart surgery unit.

As we reported last week, the battle to save the unit at Leeds General Infirmary suffered a severe setback when the results of a public consultation were revealed.

The most popular of four options for the future of England’s heart surgery units was one which would see surgery at Leeds unit stopped, meaning Yorkshire patients will have to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle.

For Emma Brook, mum of one-year-old heart patient Alfie Holland, the result is worrying.

Alfie, who was born with half a heart, will need heart surgery for the rest of his life and has just been released from a two-month stay in LGI.

“Sometimes, when Alfie needs urgent attention, that 15 to 20 minute journey to Leeds can seem long enough,” she said. “What happens now when there’s something wrong?”

Staff at LGI have known Alfie since before he was born. Miss Brook, of Batley, said it was comforting they knew everything about her son without having to ask questions.

She said she was also worried about how she could look after eight-year-old daughter Chloe while Alfie was miles away for treatment.

“I can’t afford to be travelling up and down the country. It’s scary,” she added.

But the fight doesn’t end here, according to Sharon Cheng who’s heading the Leeds campaign.

The Save our Surgery charity director said the campaign was working on developing a fifth option, called Option E, which would be “much fairer” than the four options the NHS’s Safe and Sustainable review had suggested.

The Safe and Sustainable review wants to pool surgical expertise into fewer larger centres. The results of the public consultation will be reviewed by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, which is expected to make a decision by the end of the year.

Changes to Children’s Heart Surgery Unit provision are expected to start in 2013.