2:00pm Sunday 19th August 2012
A children’s heart charity has hit back at a Wharfedale MP’s call for an announcement about changes in where and how heart surgery is provided to be delayed.
Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) last week criticised the publication of an implementation plan for a national shake-up that would close Leeds General Infirmary’s children’s heart surgery unit.
The unpopular decision to shut the unit, along with two others, was part of the findings of a three-year review by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts. It has since been referred to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.
Mr Mulholland described the publication of how the NHS would make the changes as a “disgraceful attempt to make a flawed decision a fait accompli”, and called for an immediate halt.
But the Children’s Heart Federation – a charity and umbrella organisation for 21 groups that support children with heart conditions and their families – says pausing the process would simply create more anxiety.
Chief executive, Anne Keatley-Clarke, said: “Further possible delays in implementing the planned improvements to children’s heart services across England would be extremely worrying and would cause a great deal of further uncertainty and distress for parents right across the country.
“Parents have had to cope with many years of delays and stalling about promised improvements to care. Since the Bristol baby tragedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, parents and charities, such as ourselves, have been calling for improvements like these.
“Much-needed additional investment had been put on hold, so far, in many places due to the doubt about which units were to be chosen to continue to provide surgery.”
The Safe and Sustainable review concluded that setting up seven new congenital heart networks across England and Wales by 2014 would provide better treatment and outcomes for patients.
It also recommended introducing a new set of national quality standards to ensure the highest care, and for each unit to have four surgeons conducting between 400 and 500 operations a year.
Mrs Keatley-Clarke added: “Parents, charities and professionals all agree the changes planned are necessary to improve the quality of care and outcomes for children.”
Many local parents and politicians, however, have branded the proposed closure of the Leeds facility as ‘madness’, with already anxious parents having to travel with their sick children to Newcastle for treatment.