Campaigners fury over children’s heart unit comments

The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Health Committee met at Leeds Civic Hall on Wednesday to discuss the Children's Heart unit in Leeds. Members of the campaign group to keep Leeds open and other interested parties are pictured during the meeting. Picture by Mike Cowling
The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Health Committee met at Leeds Civic Hall on Wednesday to discuss the Children's Heart unit in Leeds. Members of the campaign group to keep Leeds open and other interested parties are pictured during the meeting. Picture by Mike Cowling

Campaigners say the children’s heart unit in Leeds would not be operating if there were any concerns.

Members of Save Our Surgery are replying to comments made by Sir Roger Boyle, the government’s ex-national director for heart disease. He has said that Leeds General Infirmary remains “on the edge of acceptability” and that he would not want to send his daughter for treatment there.

Operations were suspended when incomplete data suggested that Leeds General Infirmary had a death rate twice the national average.

Sharon Cheng of Save Our Surgery said that Mr Boyle’s comments were extremely unhelpful and undermine the progress made over the last few days to begin to rebuild heart patients’ families’ trust and confidence in the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit.

“His implication that surgery should not have been resumed at Leeds contradicts everything we have heard from NHS England, the Care Quality Commission and NHS medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, who have all stated unequivocally that the unit is safe, hence their resumption of surgery. Sir Bruce himself went on record this week saying he would feel comfortable having his child operated on in the unit,” she said.

“All relevant parties, including representatives of the Central Cardiac Audit Database, the source of the data, have said that Leeds’ mortality rates are within accepted ranges. Over the last five years, Leeds’ figures have been comparable with other centres and the latest data supports this. Let me be absolutely clear – the Leeds Unit would not be operating if there were any concerns whatsoever about mortality rates or anything else.”

Ms Cheng said they are asking the independent re configuration panel to complete its report so that families can be completely confident in the quality of care that heart units provide to their children.

The unit was closed for 11 days and the decision to re-open it was confirmed at a meeting of councillors held in Leeds on Wednesday.