Campaigners fighting to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds say they’ve taken legal action to “protect lives”.
Next week a legal challenge starts over the closure of the Leeds General Infirmary unit.
Campaign group Save Our Surgery launched the judicial review to challenge the decision by NHS body the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT).
It decided in July last year that the service should move.
Supporters of the unit said the legal action was their “last resort”.
Sharon Cheng, of Save Our Surgery, said: “We believe that our arguments will clearly show that the JCPCT’s review process was flawed and that they are not acting in the best interests of children.
“We understand and agree with the need to consolidate children’s heart surgery services into fewer centres of excellence.
“However, closing Leeds and forcing families to travel for hours makes no sense. Leeds has routinely been rated as excellent and has all the facilities needed by critically ill children and their families on one site.
“At the end of the day, this is about protecting the lives of children and this is why we believe that the challenge to NHS officials should be heard.”
Lawyers will claim there was a lack of transparency, and claim there were errors in an assessment of the unit. The outcome of the legal case, due to last two days, is unlikely to be announced immediately.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the JCPCT, said they listened to the public and experts before making their decision.
“I do not deny the right of citizens to challenge decision-makers when it is right to do so, and I know Leeds and the county of Yorkshire well – I was once chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
“I have no doubt that the Leeds General Infirmary will continue to provide high quality specialist care for children with congenital heart disease – it is only the surgical and interventional aspect of treatment that will cease. Royal colleges of medicine have welcomed our decision as one that will save more children’s lives in the future, and we stand ready to defend our process with confidence.”
A separate review is to conclude by March, though it is unlikely the outcome will be known before May.