DCSIMG

Fears for mums and babies if Leeds heart surgery unit moves

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  • by Katie Baldwin
 

More mums are likely to be separated from their newborn babies if the Leeds children’s heart surgery centre moves to Newcastle, specialists have warned.

Worried doctors said those needing urgent operations would have to be moved to the North East – while their mothers might have to stay in Yorkshire.

And they said an increased number of births would have to be induced or through planned caesareans.

Medics also echoed fears from other doctors that the lives of sick infants could be put at risk if the closure of the Leeds General Infirmary surgery unit goes ahead.

Leeds consultant paediatric cardiologist Dr Elspeth Brown said: “It would be demonstrably worse for the patients who currently come to Leeds if they could not come here and had to go somewhere else.”

Last year NHS bosses decided the LGI unit should stop carrying out surgery as part of a national shake-up.

That sparked an outcry and a few months later the Government announced an independent review of the moves. A legal case against the decision has also been brought by a Leeds campaign group.

Doctors from across Yorkshire have already signed a letter saying they fear babies could die needlessly and now two more medics have spoken out. Dr Brown, lead clinician for paediatric cardiology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said their biggest fear was babies born with undiagnosed congenital heart defects – about half of those who need urgent surgery.

“They have a condition that potentially after surgery will result in a normal quality and length of life.

“They are certainly being put at risk of never getting that opportunity, of dying unnecessarily.”

For babies who are diagnosed before they are born, medics may plan for them to be born in a cardiac surgery centre.

“The implications of that is that they are going to have more inductions of labour or planned caesarean sections. You cannot wait for a lady to go into labour,” she said.

She also criticised plans for Leeds to remain a centre for heart expertise, saying that the Leeds department could “wither away” without surgery.

Colleague Dr Catherine Harrison, consultant neonatologist, added: “Taking a baby to Newcastle would take a three-hour journey, which would take teams away from other babies trying to get to Leeds for surgery.

“In Leeds we have got all the services under one roof, which is just about unique in the UK.”

A spokesman for the Safe and Sustainable review, which drew up the plans, said the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme had agreed with its standards on care which 
include giving parents the choice of delivering the baby at the surgery centre if necessary and transferring the mother and baby if a procedure is 
needed.

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