Devastation over heart unit closure

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to keep fighting after learning Leeds is to lose its children’s heart surgery service.

A decision was made by National Health service chiefs on Wednesday, which will leave sick children from Wakefield now facing journeys of hundreds of miles for life-saving surgery.

After a marathon meeting in London, national NHS heads decided Leeds General Infirmary should be stripped of the service, with patients expected to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool.

The unit saved the life of five-year-old Toby Lancaster of Stanley.

He suffered from heart failure at just 12 weeks old, and was rushed to the Children’s Heart Unit for life-saving surgery.

He will need surgery again in the future, putting pressure on his family.

Mum Joanne, 40, of Avondale Drive, Stanley, ran a petition to help keep the centre open.

She said: “I am absolutely devastated. It will have a massive impact on our lives.

“Toby will need further surgery as his heart cannot be repaired and his next visit will be at either Newcastle or Liverpool.

“It is an emotional time when your child is going through surgery and we had a lot of family support when we were only up the roads in Leeds.

“Nothing is guaranteed with surgery and I dread to think what will happen if anything goes wrong.

“I think we should continue fighting for it. It is an unjust decision, but I think that decision was made 18 months ago.

“But the campaign hasn’t been a total waste of time as we have raised the profile of the unit.”

The damning verdict is the culmination of a national review of congenital heart surgery which has taken two years.

Just 10 hospitals across England have the expertise to operate on the tiny hearts of children. But experts wanted to cut the number of units to create centres of surgery excellence.

Leeds was named as an under-threat centre last year and a massive campaign began to save it.

However a NHS panel decided the service should be based in Newcastle instead.

Morley and Outwood MP Ed Balls had met with surgeons at the unit and wrote to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Following this wek’s decision Mr Balls said: “