A CALL to arms has gone out to enlist half a million people in the fight to save children’s heart surgery in Leeds.
Massive backing from across Yorkshire has ensured a petition over the threat to the city’s specialist children’s cardiac surgery unit has become the biggest of its kind in the country.
More than 300,000 signatures have been collected in support of the service at Leeds General Infirmary.
Now campaigners are hoping to smash the half a million barrier.
Sharon Cheng, from the Save Our Surgery campaign, said: “People power – you cannot beat it. The people are the ones who are going to help us win this.
“Please sign the petition. You or your extended family could need this expertise at any point. We have got everything you could possibly need, from the cradle to the grave.”
She said she was delighted but not surprised by the huge support.
“The voices of the people are shining through. They are incensed that they could even dream of moving the service.
“This is the future for the next 20 years and we have got to shout it from the rooftops – we have a huge population and we cannot let the service leave this region.”
Maggie Boyle, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals which runs the unit, said: “The continued support from the public, local media and politicians has been second to none.
“Most units have set up petitions but we are way ahead of any others.”
Film star Sean Bean is the latest weapon in the campaign being run by the Leeds-based Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) and backed by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
The Sheffield-born actor has voiced a new radio advert directing listeners to the charity’s website for more information.
The review of all 11 centres which offer children’s cardiac surgery throughout the country has led to proposals that some should close because having larger services would be safer because surgeons would carry out more operations and keep their skills up-to-date.
Leeds only features in one out of four future set-ups, which the public are currently being consulted on.
Politicians of all parties are continuing to back the LGI and MP Greg Mulholland demanded in Parliament that the Government arrange a debate.
The Leeds North West MP said: “The wealth of public support for the Leeds unit from local people and campaigns shows how much it is valued. I will continue to put pressure on the Government to hold a debate into the Safe and Sustainable Review. Whilst question marks remain over its findings, it would be nothing less than scandalous for any decision to be taken regarding the future of Leeds heart surgery unit.”
A discussion group for young people to share their views was taking place in York today. A special text number has also been set up so young people can give their views and simplified version of the consultation document has been drawn up.