Renewed plea for heart unit

Campaigners arriving at Downing Street, London, to hand in a petition of over 500,000 signatures at number 10, against the possible closure of The children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured Sharon Cheng, Director of the Children Heart Surgery Fund, and Heather Wardle Senior Sister, along with MP's and campaigners.
Campaigners arriving at Downing Street, London, to hand in a petition of over 500,000 signatures at number 10, against the possible closure of The children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured Sharon Cheng, Director of the Children Heart Surgery Fund, and Heather Wardle Senior Sister, along with MP's and campaigners.

THE charity fighting to save the heart unit at Leeds is calling on people to make sure their voices are heard as health chiefs decide on the unit’s future.

The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund’s renewed call comes after the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, an independent group which provides advice to the Secretary of State on contested proposals for health change in England, concluded that vital research on where local people would travel to, if the facilities in Leeds were forced to close, should be considered as part of the final decision

Assumptions were initially made by the NHS’ Safe and Sustainable review that if the Leeds unit was forced to close that patients would travel to Newcastle as an alternative site.

However, in a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, people across the region clearly stated they would actually choose to travel to the Liverpool or Birmingham units instead.

The charity says the research calls into question the review’s initial recommendation of keeping the Newcastle Unit open as it would not support the minimum annual number of operations required to ensure skills are maintained in line with ‘Safe and Sustainable’ objectives.

If Newcastle was then forced to closed, due to not carrying out a sufficient number of operations, there would be a huge part of the UK which would not be serviced by an operating heart unit with people from Yorkshire and the Humber and Northumberland having to travel to units in Scotland, Liverpool or Birmingham.

Director of the CHSF, Sharon Cheng, said: “We are pleased the IRP has recognised the importance of patient flow as part of the decision making process – it only hardens our resolve to save our surgery.

“Research clearly shows that many people across the region would not travel to the Newcastle Unit, if Leeds was forced to close. This is a fundamental point that must be taken into account.

“If you want to support the fight we would ask you to write to the head of the review Sir Neil McKay, urging the JCPCT to consider the patient flow research and give your personal insight into how the closure of Leeds would affect you from a travel point of view.”

Letters should be addressed to: Sir Neil McKay CBE, Chair, Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, 2-4 Victoria House, Capital Park, Fulbourn, South Cambridgeshire, CB21 5XB. You can also write to Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker.