Health Secretary orders review of Leeds children's heart unit's closure
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to prevent the closure of a vital heart unit are pleased the Government has stepped in.
The Save Our Surgery (SOS) campaign, established to fight against the decision to close Leeds Children's Heart Unit, as reported, recently submitted an application to the High Court for permission for a judicial review.
This still stands today, however, following formal complaints this week from local authorities in Leicester and Lincolnshire, regarding the possible closure of the unit at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester as part of the same shake-up, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, has decided to halt the planned closure pending a review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).
The Joint Committee Of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) made the initial decision in July to reduce the number of children's heart units across the country from 11 to six or seven. Despite SOS welcoming involvement from Government, they are raising concerns that the IRP will simply repeat the same flawed process as originally used.
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Sharon Cheng, of SOS, said: "We are calling for the Health Secretary to ensure that the independent review looks into the original process and scoring system used with sufficient scrutiny, rather than simply repeating the original assessment process which raised significant concerns in the first place.
"We are confident that if the IRP thoroughly investigates the way the original review was approached, how hospitals were scored and how that scoring was used, it will understand why this process has sparked such widespread concern."
SOS can withdraw its legal action at anytime, but feels at the moment it still needs sufficient evidence to suggest the right steps are being taken for it to do so.
If the decision was taken to close Leeds, it would see young cardiac patients from across North East Lincolnshire having to travel to Newcastle, Birmingham or Liverpool, to receive treatment.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: "We will work closely with the Independent Reconfiguration Panel over the coming months, to assist the panel's review of the JCPCT's decision in whatever way possible.
"The decision on the future of children's heart services, which was welcomed by royal colleges of medicine, doctors, nurses and national charities, was made after carefully considering a number of factors.
"These included evidence on patient travel times, transferring ECMO services and demand on surgical services.
"The IRP has noted the JCPCT's concern that the process of challenging the decision risks further uncertainty for children's heart services in England."
In response to the SOS legal action, Sir Neil, said: "We vow to defend the process and decision to close the unit with confidence if the review went ahead."