New threat to Leeds children’s heart unit

Protesters march against the proposed closure of the Leeds General Infirmary Children's Heart Unit last year.
Protesters march against the proposed closure of the Leeds General Infirmary Children's Heart Unit last year.

NHS bosses will appeal against a High Court ruling which threw out plans to axe services at Leeds children’s heart unit.

Campaigners have accused NHS England of a “disgraceful” waste of taxpayers’ cash over the new legal challenge into the future of the centre at Leeds General Infirmary.

The latest decision comes only three weeks after officials stepped in to halt heart operations at the infirmary amid claims they were unsafe – which later proved unfounded.

NHS England’s announcement has prompted renewed concerns a decision over the future of the unit could be further delayed.

And it comes only days before a key report by experts from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel was due to be completed into to the decision to end surgery in Leeds, which would result in Wakefield children having to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool for treatment.

Angry campaigners from Save Our Surgery are calling on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene and withdraw the Court of Appeal application.

Sharon Cheng, from the group, 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.

“Pursuing this appeal serves no benefit to patients. Instead it is about protecting reputations and trying to salvage what is a flawed and thoroughly discredited process.

Bosses at NHS England said they had been advised there were “good grounds” for their appeal against the High Court ruling and had set out these points in their application to the Court of Appeal.

In a statement they 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.

“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.”

It would take into account last month’s High Court ruling and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel report.