Leeds campaign to save heart centre

Donna Ineson with her daughter Abigail Degnan.
Donna Ineson with her daughter Abigail Degnan.
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A national review of children’s heart surgery could mean services in Leeds are cut.

Katie Baldwin reports on efforts to save them.

“FIGHT now to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds.”

That’s the plea as services at Leeds General Infirmary face an increasing threat.

Specialist heart operations for youngsters could be axed as part of a national review, which could see sick youngsters from across Yorkshire have to make a much longer journey to Newcastle.

Only one of the four options being considered means surgery continuing at the LGI. Experts who assessed the service gave it the second lowest mark out of all 11 centres, some of which will stop surgical work.

A final decision will be made in summer but a leading councillor has urged campaigners to step up the fight now.

Coun Mark Dobson, chairman of Leeds City Council’s Health Scrutiny Board, said: “I remain convinced that keeping children’s specialist cardiac surgery in Leeds is essential and was disappointed by the outcome of the scoring assessment. I really question how that came about because it’s undoubtedly a centre of excellence for families right across the region.

“I think the real battle now is going to lie with parents, user groups and the public who need to engage with the consultation process.

“If we want to keep these services in Leeds, and I hope people understand what a fantastic service this is, then it’s up to us to fight to keep it in the city.”

Coun Dobson (Lab, Garforth and Swillington) is chairing a new Health Scrutiny Network for Yorkshire and the Humber and securing the future of children’s heart surgery in Leeds is the first issue being considered by councillors from across the region.

His call was backed by LGI-based charity the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.

Director Sharon Cheng said: “The unit serves more than 5.5 million people across the region, and it is unthinkable that they could lose such a vital part of our health service provision.

“We hope parents, grandparents and anyone else who cares about ensuring the best possible health care for our children will make their feelings known.”

A cross-party group of MPs have also signed an Early Day Motion tabled by Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn calling for the service to be retained.

katie.baldwin@ypn.co.uk

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