Inquest into toddler’s death during Leeds heart unit dispute

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AN inquest into the death of a toddler weeks after he was operated on at the height of the Leeds children’s heart surgery dispute was due to get underway today.

THe three-day inquest at Wakefield will investigate the death of Max James Haigh, from Scarborough. who was just 14 months old when he died of heart failure 42 days after undergoing a complex procedure to treat his congenital heart problems on March 18 2013.

Max had his operation a week before NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh controversially suspended all children’s heart surgery in Leeds.

The unit’s closure was overturned two weeks later after it was deemed that data, suggesting high death rates in Leeds that led to the decision, was inaccurate.

Max’s death at Scarborough General Hospital on June 12 2013 also coincided with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that the closure of three children’s heart units including Leeds had been suspended due to a “flawed” consultation.

Details of the family’s concerns over the need for the procedure and the quality of the operation at Leeds General Infirmary were revealed during a pre inquest review hearing at Leeds Coroner’s Court last month, which was attended by Max’s mother.

Assistant coroner Philip Holden said at the hearing: “She [Max’s mother] raises questions over whether or not surgery should have taken place and of the actual undertaking of that surgery and Max’s last admission in the days leading up to his unfortunate death.”

Laurence Vick of Exeter-based Michelmores Solicitors, who is representing the family at the inquest, said in a statement this week: “Max’s family has been waiting for so long for his case to come before the coroner, and are glad they will finally get their chance for his death to be investigated.”

Earlier this year children’s heart surgery campaigners in Leeds expressed their “relief” after a two-year NHS England review into congenital heart disease services rubber-stamped a new list of national standards that were seen as a major step towards securing the unit’s future.