MPs hunt for solution to save children's heart unit in Leeds
OUR MPs have vowed to breathe new life into a campaign to get the new Health Secretary to stop the axe falling on a children's heart unit.
As reported, Leeds General Infirmary children's heart unit has been earmarked for closure in April 2014.
But campaigners have called for a stay of execution for a further year in order for the unit to prove that it meets all the standards for children's heart surgery.
They want a pause to give Leeds a chance to prove itself and warned ministers the campaign could seek a judicial review next month on the decision to close the unit.
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The Leeds unit which is about 90 minutes away for patients from North East Lincolnshire, has treated scores of poorly children from our area.
Now The Children's Heart Surgery Fund aims to safeguard the unit by delaying the recent decision by the Joint Committee Of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to cut the unit and move patients to Newcastle.
Campaigners want to keep both Leeds and Newcastle open to see which one performs better.
That decision would be made in April 2014 and lead to the possible closure of one of the units in 2015, according to the latest proposal.
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers and Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell backed the campaign and pledged to meet Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to call for the unit to be saved.
Mr Vickers told MPs in the House Of Commons the decision to axe Leeds and keep the Newcastle unit was flawed.
He said the required standard number of operations at a typical children's heart unit needed to be about 400.
That number could not be achieved without the patients from North East Lincolnshire.
He said many of them will not be going to Newcastle and will be treated at other centres in Liverpool, Birmingham or London.
Mr Vickers said the new proposal from the Children's Heart Fund was "encouraging."
He said: "I am keen to see the details and take it up with the minister.
"I made the point to the House that the 400 figure is less likely to be achieved because people from Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham would not opt to go to Newcastle. The changes are unlikely to give the cardiac team the number they require."
He said he would speak directly to Mr Hunt and his minister Anna Soubry who is dealing with the matter.
Mr Mitchell said: "The main problem has been geographic. They want something for the north but that would cause more problems for people from our area.
"I am delighted the campaign has come up with a new solution. I hope people will write to me and I will talk with the Health Secretary."
Sharon Cheng, director of the Children's Heart Surgery Fund, said the compromise would provide an opportunity for the patients and parents who require these services to exercise their constitutional right to patient choice and determine which centre they wish to access.
She said Leeds is centrally located and has all associated medical and maternity services under one roof.
The director said: "Although we believe the process, the evidence and the decision taken by the JCPCT to end children's heart surgery at the Leeds unit are flawed, we recognise that a decision by the secretary of state to override this outcome and close Newcastle whilst keeping the Leeds unit open would create further difficulties, including a likely judicial review application from Newcastle.
"The compromise has many advantages. It avoids the risk of costly judicial action from supporters of either unit, which could sink the review in its entirety.
"Both Leeds and Newcastle will have the opportunity to demonstrate their compliance with Safe and Sustainable standards and it shows that the Government is listening to the concerns of patients and the public in Yorkshire and the Humber, and responding accordingly and it gives a clear message from this Government's DoH that patient choice will come ahead of professional convenience and NHS politics."
She urged Grimsby Telegraph readers to write to their MPs urging them to lobby health ministers to keep the Leeds unit open.
Last year more than 600,000 people from across Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire signed a petition supporting the children's heart unit.