Children’s heart surgery decision quashed

The decision to close the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary has been quashed by the High Court.

By Robert Cooke
Wednesday, 27th March 2013, 3:50 pm
Campaigners march in protest against the proposed closure of the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.
Campaigners march in protest against the proposed closure of the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts’ decision last year to close the unit was met with strong opposition.

Campaigners from Save Our Surgery took the joint committee to court, arguing that the decision to close the Leeds unit was based on a flawed process.

Earlier this month Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled in favour of the campaigners and today she quashed the joint committee’s decision to close the Leeds unit.

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Sharon Cheng from Save Our Surgery said: “We are extremely pleased and relieved that the unfair and flawed decision to stop surgery in Yorkshire and the Humber has been quashed.

“Today’s judgement vindicates our decision to pursue this case through the courts.

“We brought this case on behalf of the families and patients of our region whose genuine concerns about the review had been consistently ignored by the NHS.”

The closure of the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit would have meant families travelling to Newcastle or Liverpool to get treatment for their children.

During last month’s High Court battle, Save Our Surgery criticised the way that the joint committee had based its decision on scores that were given to all children’s heart surgery units.

Following today’s announcement, the National Commissioning Board must now reconsider the decision made by the joint committee, which it is replacing.

It must ask questions about the scores given to each heart unit, particularly relating to patients’ access to services and how far they have to travel.

The National Commissioning Board must then report back to Mrs Justice Davies with a fresh decision on which units will close.

Those in favour of closing children’s heart surgery units argue that having fewer specialised centres will improve the quality of treatment.

Joint committee chairman Sir Neil McKay said the organisation was “strongly considering” it’s grounds for appeal.

“The expert view remains that the longer vested interests delay this process, the greater the risk of safety concerns manifesting in the units,” he said.

“I never forget that the purpose of our work is saving lives and improving quality of life for children, and on behalf of the NHS I want to reassure families, patients and clinicians that we remain as determined as ever to reconfigure services for children with congenital heart disease in the interests of better outcomes and a more safe and sustainable service for children and their families.”