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Thousands protest against children's heart surgery closure

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Parents, nurses and MPs have joined together to take part in a demonstration against the ending of children’s heart surgery at a hospital.

Thousands of people gathered in Millennium Square, Leeds, to protest at the proposal to end paediatric heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

The facility at Leeds was one of three earmarked for closure following a review of children’s heart services.

The NHS review decided having 10 units carrying out children’s heart surgery spread expertise too thin.

But campaigners say the closure of the Leeds unit would leave a population of 14 million people having to travel from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham for treatment.

Demonstrators wore Children’s Heart Surgery Fund T-shirts and held banners and signs reading “SOS Save Our Surgery” and “Don’t Break My Heart” as they gathered before a march around Leeds city centre.

They cheered in the sunshine as speakers stood on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall and rallied the crowds.

MPs Stuart Andrew, Hilary Benn, Greg Mulholland and Ed Balls were among those taking part in the march.

Health minister Simon Burns last week said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley would “almost certainly” refer the concerns of local authorities to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

And tomorrow a health watchdog representing 15 councils across the Yorkshire and Humber region will meet in Leeds to review the decision.

The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Yorkshire and the Humber) will consider a range of evidence to help it determine whether or not the decision is in the interest of health services across the region.

If not, the Scrutiny Committee can refer the matter to Mr Lansley, who would make a final decision.

Professor Sir Roger Boyle, former clinical director for heart disease and stroke and clinical adviser to the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said Leeds General Infirmary would continue to provide cardiology services to children but surgery would be provided by fewer larger centres.

He said this decision would save more children’s lives in the future.

Speaking about today’s meeting, Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “We are very open to additional scrutiny of the way in which the committee reached our decision.

“The review took three years to complete and my committee considered a wide range of evidence before making a decision on the best way to improve services for children with congenital heart disease. I look forward to demonstrating the robustness of the Safe and Sustainable review and explaining the different factors we considered before reaching our decision.”

 

 

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