Campaigners for Leeds Children's Heart Unit to meet with MPs
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Leeds Children's Heart Unit are to meet with MPs in the wake of a two-day legal challenge against the decision to close the vital service.
The High Court hearing stems from a decision last July by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) that paediatric cardiac surgery should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards across the country.
It would mean children in North East Lincolnshire would have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery.
As reported on www.thisisgrimby.co.uk, yesterday saw the start of the hearing in the High Court mounted by the Grimsby Telegraph-backed Save Our Surgery campaign, who told the judge the decision was "procedurally flawed".
SOS campaigners told Mrs Justice Nicola Davies the "unfair" consultation process had left them "shooting in the dark" and called for it to be re-run.
Philip Havers QC, appearing for SOS, said the consultation process was unfair because the JCPCT denied consultees the chance to question how the quality of their services had been assessed.
Mr Havers said the Kennedy Panel, a group of experts set up to advise the JCPCT, had produced "sub-scores" measuring the quality of service under various criteria.
But the JCPCT chose only to look at the panel's total scores, and "bizarrely" refused to disclose the sub-scores to consultees, before any decision was made, only to release them immediately after the closures were announced.
Mr Havers said: "It begs the question why not disclose the information before the decision was taken so that the consultees could comment?"
Mr Havers said: "There were points which Leeds could, and would, have undoubtedly made about how the Kennedy Panel had scored them."
It would also have commented on the scoring "as between Leeds and Newcastle".
The result of not giving centres any clue how the panel scored various criteria was that centres were "shooting in the dark" when it came to consultation, he said.
JCPCT lawyers say the consultation process was fair and all relevant considerations were properly taken into account when it took its decision.
The meeting with MPs, including Cleethorpes' Martin Vickers and Grimsby's Austin Mitchell, will be held tomorrow – to help bring them up to speed with the campaign.
Sharon Cheng, of SOS, said: "Taking legal action has always been our last resort option, pursued only after all other appeals to review the decision were rejected by the JCPCT.
"This is about protecting the lives of children and this is why we believe that the challenges to NHS officials should be heard."
The former national clinical director for heart disease and stroke Sir Roger Boyle, who was one of the experts advising the review, says the NHS made the right decision and that Leeds General Infirmary would continue to play a vital role providing cardiology services to children.