Leeds heart surgery row moves step closer to judicial review
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save children's heart surgery services in Leeds have taken a step closer towards a judicial review.
A recent review concluded children's heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary should be stopped so care can be concentrated at fewer, larger sites.
The decision by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) means children, including those from East Yorkshire, will have to travel to Newcastle or further for treatment in the future.
Now, campaigners from the Children's Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF), which backs the Leeds unit, want the decision overturned.
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Charity director Sharon Cheng confirmed the CHSF had sent a "letter before action" to the JCPCT to notify it of a potential judicial review.
But she stressed it has yet to formally instruct lawyers to commence proceedings.
Ms Cheng said campaigners have tried "every route" to ensure their case is heard but she feels the voices of those who have spoken out have been ignored.
She said: "It is with regret and reluctance we have had to consider a judicial review. "As time is not on our side, we have had to explore all the options available to us and we have been advised we have a compelling case, which we may decide to pursue to secure the future of the unit for parents and families."
Under the plans, services will be located in Newcastle, Liverpool, London, Southampton, Birmingham and Bristol.
Last year, more than 600,000 people signed a petition supporting the Leeds unit. This year, more than 2,000 people turned out for a mass demonstration in the city in July to highlight their fears.
Concerns are also being passed to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who could refer the concerns to the independent reconfiguration panel for consideration and the decision could be overturned.
Ms Cheng said taking legal action would be a last resort.
She said: "I reiterate we have not yet instructed our lawyers to commence proceedings on the judicial review and I am deeply concerned that the new Health Minister Anna Soubry has postponed our meeting – scheduled for this week, to discuss the campaign – as we would certainly prefer to secure a compromise rather than bring proceedings."
James Roxburgh, president of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland, said a decision had to be made as changes to the way services are organised will "improve clinical outcomes and ensure the service is sustainable".
He said: "Maintaining the status quo was simply not an option.
"For too long, surgical expertise has been spread too thinly across too many hospitals and services need to be better co-ordinated to deliver expert care closer to where families live.
"We have stood firmly behind this review as we believe it will create a more sustainable service for the future.
"It is vital that we now move forward without protracted legal disputes."