Criticism over Leeds children’s heart meeting ‘no show’

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THE nhs boss who recommended that Leeds children’s heart surgery unit should temporarily close has been criticised for failing to face questions from councillors.

Sir Bruce Keogh did not attend a meeting of Yorkshire politicians discussing reports into the suspension of surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary Unit last year.

Two reports, published last month, looked into one of the reasons behind the closure – concerns about care in Leeds raised by doctors from Newcastle – and the entire saga.

Yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) heard from Leeds hospitals, bosses from NHS England and the authors of the report from private firm Verita.

But Sir Bruce, medical director of NHS England – who played a major role in the temporary suspension of surgery at LGI – did not attend.

Committee chairman Coun Debra Coupar told the meeting: “It’s not the first time he has been invited and he has not come.

“I do think it’s incumbent on him to come, but he’s not here and he has not given us a statement either, which we asked him to do.”

NHS England medical director Mike Bewick, who was there, said he would pass on the sentiments and gave full updates but added Sir Bruce’s diary was full until the end of January.

Mr Bewick also spoke about conclusions in the report that the now-abandoned national shake-up of children’s heart surgery had created rivalry between hospitals.

He said a new review would not have the same effect.

“What was there before was hurtful and did not work,” he said.

“It won’t be about Leeds versus Newcastle, or Newcastle versus Alder Hey hospital.”

The NHS boss was also quizzed on the time taken to produce the three reports into the closure, with Coun Coupar saying those criticising Leeds were published much sooner than the most recent ones which “exonerated” the unit.

He said that ideally they would not have taken 20 months, adding that processes to bring in independent experts could be streamlined.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, one of the authors of the Verita reports, was asked why some concerns raised by Newcastle doctors dated back several years.

She said that medics had worries about one Leeds case and looked through records to see if there was a pattern.

“It was all a bit tangled,” she said. “Emotions were running extremely high.”

NHS England also revealed yesterday that a risk summit about the unit in Leeds had discussed issues including the responsibilities of whistleblowing.

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