Save Our Surgery campaigners welcome Leeds heart surgery ruling
A CAMPAIGN group fighting to save a children's heart surgery unit has won a High Court challenge.
Save Our Surgery (SOS) won its challenge against the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT).
SOS had claimed the JCPCT's consultation process and decision about closing the unit at Leeds General Infirmary had been unlawful.
But the battle is not yet won for East Yorkshire families whose severely ill children are treated at Leeds.
Although it has been found the consultation process was wrong, it now needs to be decided whether this means the unit should remain open or close.
Both sides need to know whether the court will quash the JCPCT's decision in its entirety or allow the "reconfiguration" of children's heart surgery to go ahead, which would see the closure of the Leeds unit and East Yorkshire families travelling to Newcastle or Liverpool for treatment.
Almost 600,000 people signed a petition against the decision to end surgery in Leeds.
Sharon Cheng, of SOS, said: "This judgment finally confirms what we have always believed – that the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts' review process and decision to remove children's heart surgery services from Leeds was unlawful.
"Winning this case in the High Court proves once and for all that the supposed consultation was a rubber-stamping exercise, conducted with an outcome in mind, with clinicians, MPs and patients fooled into feeling they had influence.
"This action was taken by parents and clinicians who simply could not stand by and watch a clear injustice being done."
The JCPCT says yesterday's announcement – first revealed on the Mail's website – that Judge Nicola Davies had found in favour of SOS was delaying "long overdue" reforms.
Sir Neil McKay, the chairman of the JCPCT, said: "I am very disappointed with the court's decision.
"The pressing need to reform children's heart services is long overdue and experts have cautioned that further delay in achieving the necessary change would be a major set back in improving outcomes for children with heart disease.
"The judgment focuses on a single matter of process, but the case for the reconfiguration of children's heart surgical services remains strong."
There will now be a subsequent hearing in three weeks time when the court will decide what to do in light of yesterday's decision.
But if the courts do not find in their favour, the JCPCT has already threatened an appeal – delaying a final decision even further.
Dr McKay said: "We are making representations to the court that it should not quash the decision in its entirety.
"Once we have the court's judgment on this point, we will strongly consider the possibility of appeal."
Complicating matters further, the secretary of state for health has also organised a separate review relating to children's heart surgery, which is expected to be completed by the end of March.
Ms Cheng added: "We will now wait to understand what the next steps are.
"However, this judgment in itself is a victory for the people who fought to keep children's heart surgery services in Yorkshire and to challenge what they knew to be a flawed and unjust process."