Leeds Save Our Surgery Campaign: NHS boss summoned to heart unit meeting

Children's Heart Fund campaigners form a heart shape on the map of Leeds to show their support  for "Option E".

Children's Heart Fund campaigners form a heart shape on the map of Leeds to show their support for "Option E".

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AN NHS head was summoned by councillors after she failed to attend a meeting to discuss the threat to children’s heart surgery in Leeds.

Politicians from across Yorkshire were angered that no current member of the decision-making body over the plans turned up to answer questions about the plans.

They had expected Ailsa Claire, who sat on the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), to be at the meeting yesterday in Leeds.

However at the start of the meeting they were informed by Andy Buck, chief executive of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Primary Care Trusts, that Ms Claire would not be attending as she would shortly no longer be the representative on the JCPCT due to a shake-up of responsibilities. He is taking over that role.

Councillors, who are formulating a response to the review which could see Leeds General Infirmary losing its children’s heart surgery service, said they were very displeased and called it “disgraceful”.

Coun Mike Gibbons, from Bradford, said: “I find this extremely discourteous and that’s a polite way of putting it.”

Committee chairman and Leeds councillor Coun Lisa Mulherin added: “We are aghast at the JCPCT’s failure to come along. ”

After a private discussion, the committee sent Ms Claire a letter demanding she attend their meeting immediately. The letter said Mr Buck had not been briefed by her and had no official capacity to represent the JCPCT, and they had been asking to see a JCPCT representative for five months.

It added: “We intend to make our views clear about this latest incident and the contempt with which the joint scrutiny committee for this region and the democratically elected representatives of 5.5m people have been treated by the JCPCT.”

Later, the committee was told Ms Claire would be attending. After arriving she answered questions over the planned shake-up of children’s heart surgery.

More than 650,000 people have signed a petition supporting Leeds as part of the Save Our Surgery campaign. Campaigners last night showed they would be broken-hearted if the centre was to close by forming the shape of a heart at Leeds City Museum as part of a call for Yorkshire residents to lobby their MP and push for an alternative option which would see services retained in Leeds.

* For details on the campaign, visit: www.chsf.org.uk

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