Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Talks planned on heart surgery unit

Operations at Leeds General Infirmary's children's heart surgery unit were halted last Thursday

A summit between health and hospital bosses and a local authority will be held to discuss the future of a children's heart surgery unit.

A group representing 15 councils in Yorkshire and Humberside has called for a speedy resolution to talks about restarting children's heart surgery in Leeds.

The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Yorkshire and the Humber has said it is imperative that the paediatric heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary resumes operations "as quickly as possible".

Surgery at the unit was halted last Thursday after NHS figures, which have since been criticised as flawed, suggested an abnormally high death rate.

Sources said they believed a decision was close to being reached.

Chairman of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Yorkshire and the Humber, Councillor John Illingworth, said: "At this summit we are hopeful that the issues which resulted in the temporary closure will be fully addressed and that these critically important services will be immediately restored. Our prime concern throughout this process has been the welfare of the children concerned and limiting the anxiety of their parents and families, and we hope the restoration of services in Leeds will remove the current uncertainty and provide some comfort to them at this exceptionally difficult time."

Mr Illingworth said further concerns will need to be addressed after any decision is made, adding: "While our sole focus at this point is on bringing about the restoration of services as quickly as possible, we do have a number of questions to ask about how this whole process has played out and we will be seeking answers to those questions in the weeks and months to come."

All operations at the unit were suspended just 24 hours after a High Court judge ruled that a decision-making process to close the children's unit as part of an England-wide reorganisation of services was "legally flawed".

Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, said figures suggested mortality rates were twice that of other centres and were among a "constellation of reasons" behind the decision. However, medical bodies, doctors and other experts have questioned the accuracy of the data, which they say was unverified and not fit to base such a decision on.

MPs will also be awaiting the outcome of the meeting before deciding whether to ask the parliamentary Health Select Committee to investigate, according to a Leeds MP. Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough, said he remained "hopeful" the unit would be allowed to restart surgery. "After that I think we need to start asking questions about how this issue has been handled," he said after MPs met in Leeds to discuss the matter. He added that he hoped the select committee, which is appointed by the House of Commons to examine healthcare policy, would look at "whether or not the right processes were made".

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