‘Kids will die’ warning on Leeds heart unit closure

FEARS FOR THE FUTURE: Kevin Watterson (right) and Mark Darowski.
FEARS FOR THE FUTURE: Kevin Watterson (right) and Mark Darowski.
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CHILDREN will die if Leeds loses its heart surgery service, top doctors have warned.

Half the city’s intensive care beds for the sickest youngsters would also close.

And operations on adults with congenital heart problems would no longer be able to be carried out in Leeds.

The unit at Leeds General Infirmary is under threat because of a national review of children’s heart surgery which is suggesting that several of the 11 centres should close.

Leeds only features in one of four options under consideration.

If the city loses the service, medics say the regional impact will be huge.

Leeds consultant cardiac surgeon Kevin Watterson told a meeting of councillors from across Yorkshire set up to look at the effect on the region: “It’s not a step forward, it’s a step backwards. I think the Yorkshire population are being sacrificed and I think that’s wrong.”

Mr Watterson said the extra time it took to transfer very sick babies to Newcastle – where many Yorkshire children would go – could prove fatal.

“I think it’s unsafe. There are going to be youngsters who will die, I am certain of that,” he said.

His views were echoed by paediatric intensivist Dr Mark Darowski, who said: “The most disadvantaged population will be from the east coast and I think a small number of children will die because of that additional distance.”

Councillors heard that the newly-created Leeds Children’s Hospital at LGI meant all expertise was close together, something no other hospital in the country provided in the same way.

Mum Lois Brown, from Skipton, told how that meant that when her three-year-old daughter Amelie, who has a serious heart condition, stopped breathing and was rushed to her local hospital, Dr Darowski came from Leeds to stablise her before she was taken to LGI.

Mrs Brown said: “Leeds was vital to us.”

If the service was not in Leeds, 400 cardiology procedures for youngsters other than open heart surgery could not be done, eight paediatric intensive care beds could be lost and because the hospitals would not have cardiac surgeons, operations for adults with heart defects could not be done either.

Maggie Boyle, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “If this service is not retained in Leeds, then the disadvantage to the population we serve will be significant.”

Hospital bosses added that they had concerns about the way the review had been done, including services they offer not being recognised, incorrect information being used and a claim that they could not do more than 600 operations a year, when this question was not asked.

Councillors agreed to write to the national review team to ask for a consultation period to be extended. It is due to end in July, after which a final decision will be made.

* To support the campaign to maintain LGI children’s heart surgery, log on to www.chsf.org.uk/save-our-heart-surgery-unit.

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