NHS to appeal Leeds children’s heart surgery decision

NEW BATTLE Lois Brown, Sharon Cheng and Dr Sara Matley from Save Our Surgery celebrate winning a High Court ruling which NHS England now wants overturned.
NEW BATTLE Lois Brown, Sharon Cheng and Dr Sara Matley from Save Our Surgery celebrate winning a High Court ruling which NHS England now wants overturned.

The NHS is appealing a High Court ruling which said the decision to close a children’s heart surgery unit was not taken properly.

Last month, campaigners won a legal battle which criticised the process that led to the planned closure of the Leeds unit.

But now, NHS England is lodging appeal against that ruling in a bid to press ahead with the unit closure.

Sharon Cheng, from campaign group Save Our Surgery, said: “NHS England’s move to try and appeal against the outcome of the judicial review is a disgraceful waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

“The decision to appeal only underlines, once again, NHS England’s willingness to spend money on lawyers’ fees that should be used for patient care.”

The closure of the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary was agreed by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts last summer.

That organisation, which no longer exists, was tasked with reducing children’s cardiac services to fewer specialist centres.

Closing the unit in Leeds would have meant West Yorkshire families travelling to Liverpool or Newcastle for treatment.

In response, Save Our Surgery took legal action and argued at the High Court that the joint committee did not reach its decision fairly.

Save Our Surgery won that case, putting the future of the government’s plan to close the Leeds unit in doubt.

But now NHS England, which has taken over responsibility for the unit closures, wants to have the court’s decision overturned.

A NHS England spokesman said: “There is broad consensus – among both clinicians and patient groups – that the NHS needs to concentrate the care of children needing these services into fewer, larger specialist centres, as an integral part of children’s heart networks,” they said in a statement.

“NHS England believes that we must deliver this change as quickly as possible on behalf of children and their families. We now have an opportunity to take stock and assess the best way of achieving our objective in the fastest possible time.”

Earlier this month, children’s heart surgery was suspended at Leeds General Infirmary over concerns about death rates.

Operations have since resumed after figures showed that the death rates were an ‘acceptable’.