Vow to save unit

Anne-Marie Sheard fears the children's heart unit in Leeds where her four-year-old son Isaac is treated may close.
Anne-Marie Sheard fears the children's heart unit in Leeds where her four-year-old son Isaac is treated may close.

FAMILIES from across the district have vowed to continue their fight after health bosses decided last week to end children’s heart surgery in Leeds.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) decided last Wednesday to close the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) in favour of having fewer, larger sites across the country.

It means parents across Yorkshire will now have to travel to Newcastle, Liverpool or Birmingham for surgery, although Leeds will retain diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment.

A Save Our Surgery petition which garnered 600,000 signatures, failed to save the LGI service.

Ackworth mum Anne-Marie Sheard, 40, whose son Isaac, four, has atrioventricular septal defect (ASVD) and will need open heart surgery, said she had been “devastated” by the news.

She said: “We are carrying on with the campaign and trying to make sure the government gets involved, as up to now it has been an NHS decision.

“The health impact will be huge on families in this area. If we went to Newcastle he would be taken from Leeds by ambulance, have his surgery and be stabilised, and then transferred back to Leeds by ambulance, and we are talking four hours in an ambulance post-open heart surgery.

“There are just too many risks, the A1 is prone to accidents and we can’t be in the ambulance with him. Until things are absolutely final we can’t make a decision, but we’d be looking at Great Ormond Street, Liverpool or Birmingham.”

Parents are now planning to lobby health secretary Andrew Lansley and local MPs to step in and save the service.

Streethouse mum Sharron Hawkins, 34, whose three-year-old son Kian also has ASVD, said: “I’m absolutely disgusted. I think the decision was made a long time ago and they were just going through the motions.

“I don’t think anything we have done has made any impact on it at all. How can they improve heart surgery in this country if they are taking away one of the best services we have and leaving Yorkshire and the Humber without?”

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper said: “This is an incredibly disappointing decision for parents across our district. I’ve heard from constituents about the difference the heart unit has made, and it is clear from the massive support this campaign has seen, that patients and parents will not stand by and allow this important service to be closed.

“I’ll be supporting local parents as they appeal this decision and ask the government to keep their promises to put patients first.”

Wakefield Council leader Peter Box said: “I am deeply disappointed and angered by the decision to close this service. I welcome the news that the campaigners are to appeal against the decision to close this unit which I believe was seriously flawed and will have a major impact on children’s health services right across Yorkshire.”