Final evidence heard at heart unit appeal
THE final evidence has been heard in a High Court appeal to save children's heart surgery in Yorkshire.
Campaigners hoping to save the Leeds General Infirmary heart unit – which serves critically ill children in East Yorkshire – now have to await the judge's decision and a separate independent review ordered by the Health Secretary.
If the campaign fails, children from our region will have to travel as far as Liverpool and Newcastle for potentially lifesaving heart surgery.
Last week and yesterday, the High Court heard cases from Save Our Surgery and the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT).
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The JCPCT decided care should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards and proposed to close units at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, London's Royal Brompton and Leeds General Infirmary.
Sharon Cheng, of Save Our Surgery, said: "Pursuing this legal challenge was always a last resort and has been brought by parents and clinicians who have fundamental concerns about this decision.
"Having been forced to take this route, the court case has given us an opportunity to be heard, and to demonstrate the serious implications that the flawed review process and resulting decision will have for critically ill children in our vast region.
"Despite the picture NHS managers have tried to paint, this case is not about loyalty to a local hospital, nor is it a criticism of Newcastle.
"Instead, it challenges the legality of a process and decision that has been flawed throughout and puts patients' interests at the bottom of its priority list.
"The court hearing has underlined what we have always believed: that the supposed consultation was conducted with one outcome in mind – keeping the Newcastle children's surgery unit open in order to protect a transplant service.
"From their comments in court, the consultation appears to have been a rubber-stamping exercise, with clinicians, MPs and patients in this region fooled into feeling they had influence."
The JCPCT has argued better surgery could be provided if it were concentrated at fewer, larger sites.
The JCPCT and Save Our Surgery made representations to the court during a two-day hearing last week, but that was extended to include yesterday's court hearing, as more time was needed.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the JCPCT, said: "Everyone agrees the NHS should expand access to local care and pool surgical expertise in fewer, larger centres.
"We outlined in considerable detail our defence of the process in the High Court. We believe the consultation was transparent, fair and lawful and the 77,000 respondents to consultation were given detailed information needed to make an intelligent response to the consultation.
"We believe the detailed narrative report produced by the independent expert panel chaired by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy outlined far more effectively the panel's assessment of each surgical centre, including where hospitals were not meeting the standards.
"The hearing has now finished and we await the court's judgment."
Judge Mrs Justice Nicola Davies will now consider both sides before giving her verdict on the case. A judgment is expected at the beginning of March.