Leeds Save Our Surgery campaign: PM ducks challenge on heart unit

David Cameron.

David Cameron.

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THE Prime Minister has dodged questions over the future of children’s heart surgery in Leeds.

The Yorkshire Evening Post asked David Cameron for his response over the massive outcry against the possibility of the unit at Leeds General Infirmary closing.

More than 250,000 people have now signed a petition against the service being lost, which would see very sick children instead travelling to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery.

A national review is recommending shutting four or five of the units which currently perform cardiac operations on youngsters.

Health bosses are currently consulting the public over which should stay, but Leeds only features in one out of four options being looked at.

The Prime Minister has already been quizzed about the unit at LGI in Parliament by Leeds MP Greg Mulholland.

But Mr Cameron’s Downing Street office refused to comment when shown coverage by the YEP about the hundreds of thousands of people across Yorkshire demanding that the Leeds centre stays open.

A spokesman said it was a Department of Health matter and therefore a response would come from them.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “This independent review has been led by the NHS and clinicians to ensure that children’s heart surgery is safe and fit for the future. No decisions have been made - it would be premature to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation process.

“We expect all those with views to express to contribute to that consultation process over the coming weeks.”

However the charity leading the YEP-backed Save Our Surgery (SOS) campaign said it was “disappointing” that health secretary Andrew Lansley had not responded.

Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that he didn’t address it.

Over 250,000 people have now signed the petition and that deserves some sort of comment, not a bog-standard response.”

She said that parents understandably felt incredibly strongly about keeping the LGI unit open because it had saved their children.

“Parents are absolutely frightened to death. Some are having sleepless nights,” she added.

“They cannot comprehend the Leeds unit leaving because it has saved their children’s lives.”

Last week Mr Lansley suggested in Parliament that an appeal could be made to the Government after the final decision has been made by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts in November.

Afterwards, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health told the YEP that “there were circumstances under which the Secretary of State could be called upon for a decision”.

Two consultation meetings are being held by the national review team at the Royal Armouries in Leeds next Tuesday. Campaigners are also planning a rally outside the venue at 5pm that day and hundreds of people are expected.

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