Heart heroes launch appeal to keep Leeds unit at forefront of care

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A fundraising campaign to build a state-of-the-art operating theatre at the once-threatened Leeds Children’s Heart Surgery Unit has been launched.

The appeal to raise £500,000 over the next two years will enable the service to meet national standards imposed as part of a new review of cardiac treatment for youngsters.

It comes after years of campaigning to keep the Leeds Children’s Hospital unit open after it was threatened by a controversial previous shake-up of services.

Leeds General Infirmary-based charity the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has committed £1.25m to create the new theatre and today launched the Keeping the Beat appeal to collect the further £500,000 needed.

Sharon Coyle, chief executive of the charity, said: “There’s no doubt that Leeds currently boasts one of the best heart units anywhere in the UK, with patients travelling not just from within Yorkshire but also from outside the region to take advantage of the pioneering surgery and care it provides.

“Over the next two years, Children’s Heart Surgery Fund’s focus is to support the new standards created by NHS England, with the children’s heart theatre being the biggest and most expensive standard amongst the 200 set out by the new review.

“By supporting our appeal and donating, the public will help to ensure that Leeds remains at the fore of specialist cardiac surgical facilities and continues to provide excellent care to all the babies and children for generations to come.”

The Leeds Congenital Heart Unit sees 10,000 babies and children from across the region each year, with around 400 needing open heart surgery and a further 450 undergoing interventional procedures.

A national review of children’s heart surgery services across the country began in 2009.

Two years later, the Leeds General Infirmary unit was earmarked for closure as part of the shake-up and in 2012, a panel of experts recommended it should shut.

A Yorkshire-wide campaign was started to retain the service and campaigners also launched a legal challenge.

In 2013 the High Court in London quashed the closure decision. The latest review is based around meeting standards rather than cutting the number of units.

The new heart theatre will cut waiting times, enable surgeons and cardiologists to undertake combined procedures and reduce the need for return surgery and will mean they can carry out research into new treatments.

Patients are celebrating the new appeal at an event today and will be sharing their stories of having lifesaving treatment.

* Donate online at www.chsf.org.uk, or text BEAT02 £10 to 70070 to give £10. Tweet @CHSurgeryFund using #Keepingthebeat to show support.

Albie’s story

Little Albie Carroll was just eight weeks old when he underwent a 12-hour heart operation.

The tot, now one, was born with four holes in the heart and the conditions coarctation of the aorta and slight hypoplastic left heart.

Albie, from Bingley, was rushed to the LGI soon after diagnosis for the major surgery and afterwards his family were supported, through the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, by a specialist psychologist.

His dad Christian Carroll said: “Albie is a miracle. We owe so much to the team at the LGI, they have given us the chance to watch our son grow up.

“Words cannot describe what we have been through and how much the support the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has given us.”

The family have since raised over £31,000 for the charity.

Albie’s mum Freya added: “Even though we were being faced with something so awful when Albie was diagnosed last year, we were quickly made aware that we were in the best possible place and the help and support that the charity gave to us throughout Albie’s treatment was invaluable.

“It was during our time in hospital that we decided we needed to give something back and raise as much money as possible. We are thrilled that the money raised is going towards a new state-of-the-art theatre, knowing that out of such heartache and such a hard situation we have been able to do something positive.”

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