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Legal action over Newcastle child unit decision
A CAMPAIGN group has launched legal proceedings against NHS officials who decided to close a children’s heart unit in Leeds and make families travel to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery.
Save Our Surgery (SOS) said it has filed for permission to pursue a judicial review against the decision made by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to close the unit at Leeds General Infirmary.
The plan would leave the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle, and Alder Hey Childrens Hospital, in Liverpool, as the only specialist units in the North of England.
In July, it was announced the Leeds hospital, alongside Glenfield Hospital, in Leicester, and the Royal Brompton, in London, would stop performing the specialist surgery in a move to streamline paediatric heart services.
Officials decided to close the three surgical units after an NHS review concluded that expertise was spread too thinly across ten sites and should be concentrated in fewer hospitals.
The SOS campaign group, made up of the parents of patients and clinicians, said it was disputing the legality of the JCPCT decision. The group said children from the Yorkshire and Humber region with heart problems – some of whom could be in critical condition – will have to travel as far as 150 miles for treatment.
They are also questioning the JCPCTs decision-making process.
SOS spokeswoman Sharon Cheng said: “Quite simply, we feel we have been left with no alternative, after all other options put forward were rejected outright by the senior NHS officials responsible.”
A judge will now examine the evidence to decide whether SOS can proceed with the judicial review.
The consultation process was launched by the JCPCT as part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services.
The Safe and Sustainable review followed a landmark inquiry into children’s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.
In the wake of this inquiry it was recommended that paediatric surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres.
Once the units stop providing surgery they will still see patients for diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment.