Mothers hit out at heart unit decision

Mary Dennison with her son Jack who had major heart surgery at LGI which could close
Mary Dennison with her son Jack who had major heart surgery at LGI which could close

TWO families have hit back at the decision to close the children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds.

Mary Dennison and Samantha Goacher both have first-hand experience of the important work the heart unit does and have vowed to change the verdict.

Samantha Fawbert with Eleanor Goacher, 19 months,

Samantha Fawbert with Eleanor Goacher, 19 months,

A panel of experts last week chose Option B as the highest scoring option in a national review of children’s heart surgery provision. This option means that families in Yorkshire will now have to travel to either Newcastle or Liverpool.

Mary’s son Jack was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary for heart surgery when he was just three years old. But she said it’s not just the surgery that would stop at Leeds but it would mean longer journey’s for pre-ops and reviews and the services for people aged 16 plus.

“Your child having heart surgery is the most traumatic thing. You say goodbye to your child because you don’t know if they will survive. You don’t want to be there alone, you need back up and you need your family,” said Mary of Rastrick. She said patient choice was being ignored and that Leeds was easier to reach on both rail and road networks compared to Newcastle.

She urged people to write to their MP and Secretary of State. “We have got to think about future generations. Your child may need the heart unit. It’s no good shouting about it after, we need people to get up and write and let the strength of feeling be known.”

Samantha’s daughter Eleanor was rushed into the unit when she was just 20-weeks-old. She said the decision was very upsetting. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet we are still hoping they might change their minds and not close it. Obviously now Newcastle is the closest but six years ago my daughter wouldn’t have made it there,” said Samantha of Brighouse.

“The heart unit affects everybody. Everybody either knows someone or has had someone there. Eleanor is better now but she still has to have check ups but there are children a lot worse than her and it is a big thing to travel that far.”

She said her husband was travelling every night to see them while Eleanor was in hospital but if they had been in Newcastle that wouldn’t have been possible.

A petition signed by more than 600,000 people failed to persuade the panel in London last week.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker described the closure as devastating.

Sir Neil McKay CB, chairman of the joint committee of Primary care Trusts, said it was a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for and will enable the NHS to improve care for children with congenital heart disease.

“The needs of children, not the vested interest of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review,” he said. “We only took the decision after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land.

“Before making our decision, we carefully considered the responses to public consultation and all the available evidence and advice.

“Parents, patients and clinicians told us consistently during consultation that quality of care should be the most important factor, so hospitals’ ability to meet the new national quality standards was foremost in our minds when coming to this decision.

“We recognise these are difficult decisions to make, and that some people will be disappointed to lose their nearest surgical centre. However, we strongly believe our decision is in the best interests of all children and will ensure services are safe and sustainable for the future.”