We’ll fight on!

Rachel Ling with her daughter Georgia who has a heart condition and was treated at Leeds LGI's heart surgery unit. (d10051105)
Rachel Ling with her daughter Georgia who has a heart condition and was treated at Leeds LGI's heart surgery unit. (d10051105)

Children who need heart surgery will soon have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool after health bosses decided to stop offering the service at Leeds General Infirmary.

An official review said services should be at fewer, larger sites to improve standards and stop expertise being spread too thinly. The review came against the backdrop of a 2001 report into the deaths of children who’d had heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1991 and 1995.

The decision was taken this week, despite a two year campaign by the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and charity The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.

Hundreds of thousands of people backed the Save Our Surgery campaign for LGI including Rachel Ling from Edge Road, Thornhill. Her daughter, Georgia, six, was born with rare heart and stomach defects and has been treated at Leeds.

Mrs Ling said campaigners were expecting the ‘awful’ decision, but would not accept it. She added: “We feel it was decided right from the beginning, we’re disappointed. We will continue to fight though, we’re not going to take this.

“It’s very frustrating. I feel that we’ve not been heard. This will affect the children of the future.”

Campaigners were due to meet yesterday afternoon to discuss appeal grounds and Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew had requested to ask an emergency question in the House of Commons.

Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell said there were question marks over the consultation process and campaigners would be looking into whether or not they warranted an appeal.

Mr Reevell said it was important to remember the reason for the review, but was disappointed with the outcome.

He added: “The argument against Leeds was very marginal. They say a unit has to deal with 400 cases a year to be sustainable, but Leeds is only just below that and there’s certainly no question about the standard of care. You then have to look beyond that at the geographical argument.”

The decision was made at a meeting in London on Wednesday when the review – by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts – decided that children’s heart surgery would continue at seven centres from 2014. Units at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital and London’s Royal Brompton will also stop offering surgery, but all three will remain open to focus on care before and after surgery.

Chairman of the committee Sir Neil McKay CB said: “The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review. We only took the decision today after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land.”

The committee said it had considered 12 viable options.

But chairman of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Mike Collier said: “This decision seems almost perverse in light of the information which became available during the course of the consultation process.

“We are surprised that the very clear wishes of over 600,000 people from this region appear to have been disregarded.”

The hospitals which will offer heart surgery are: Evelina Hospital and Great Ormond Street in London; Southampton General Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

Mrs Ling is urging people to write to Mr Reevell and Health Minister Andrew Lansley about the decision. Mr Reevell said he would welcome the support.