LGI heart unit legal challenge

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CAMPAIGNERS have launched a legal challenge against the decision to end children’s heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

Save Our Surgery (SOS) has applied to the High Court for permission for a Judicial Review against the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trust’s (JCPCT) decision in July to close paediatric cardiac surgery in Leeds.

The case is based on campaigners’ concerns regarding how hospitals were scored and compared during a national review of paediatric heart surgery, and subsequent flaws in the decision-making process.

It is also challenging the decision due to the impact of the closure on patient care and access to services for people across the north of England – patients will have to travel to Newcastle, Birmingham or Liverpool for future surgery.

The decision to apply for Judicial Review comes after the JCPCT rejected a proposal from campaigners to pause the closure of children’s heart surgery until 2014, to review the decision and its consequences.

Sharon Cheung, from SOS, said: “It is with great regret and reluctance that we have decided to lodge this application for legal action. Quite simply, we feel we’ve been left with no alternative after all other options put forward were rejected outright by the senior NHS officials responsible.

“Fundamentally, this action is about making sure that children across the country have proper access to life-saving services.”

Kevin Watterson, congenital heart surgeon and SOS campaigner, added: “As we have made very clear, repeatedly, since the decision was made, we have grave concerns about how this decision has been reached and the impact it will have on patients and their 
families.

“We are fighting to keep children safe and we believe that challenging the decision is the only way of doing that at this stage.”

A High Court judge will now review the legal arguments and determine whether the challenge can take place.