The risks of moving heart transplants away from Newcastle gave its hospital the ‘key edge’ over Leeds when deciding where to retain children’s heart surgery, the High Court has heard.
The claim was made on the second day of the legal challenge to the decision to close Leeds children’s heart surgery unit, brought by Leeds Save Our Surgery.
The court in London heard that NHS body the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which made the decision, chose option B out of 12 variations for a new national set-up of hospitals running the paediatric service – which included Newcastle over Leeds, which does not perform transplants.
Dinah Rose QC, for the JCPCT, said: “The key edge that option B has is because of the risk associated with transferring the transplant service.”
Earlier this week the court was told by Philip Havers, representing Save Our Surgery, the JCPCT was “assessing in the dark” because it did not have the detailed scores from an assessment of all heart surgery centres carried out by a panel of experts.
But yesterday Miss Rose said Sir Ian Kennedy, who led the panel, said each hospital was judged consistently on the evidence submitted.
“It would be dangerous for the JCPCT to look at the sub-scores,” she said, adding there was concern disclosing them would undermine the process.
Miss Rose said the issue was “taken up by [Leeds charity] the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund very belatedly and used as a hook for a challenge to this decision.”
For there to have been a different outcome, Leeds would have had to have scored much better and Newcastle much worse, she said, adding that was “very implausible”.
A final day of evidence is expected next week. An immediate judgement is unlikely.