Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Decision Delay 'Is Risking Lives' MP Criticised Suspension of Plans for Units

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Decision Delay 'Is Risking Lives' MP Criticised Suspension of Plans for Units

Article excerpt

A DECISION to suspend plans to close three children's heart surgery units is destabilising services and putting young lives at risk, it has been claimed.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday that the ruling to close the units in Leeds, Leicester and west London was to be put on hold after an independent review suggested the consultation process was based on "flawed analysis".

It was announced in July last year that children's heart surgery would remain at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, but that ruling is now in jeopardy.

The PS6m review into streamlining paediatric cardiac surgery in England "left too many questions unanswered", according to a new report from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) - the body tasked by Mr Hunt with reviewing the decision.

But MPs in the North East last night said that the continued delay is putting young lives at risk. Calls are now being made for the Government to put a swift end to the uncertainty so that changes can be implemented as soon as possible.

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell said: "It's almost two years since I expressed my concerns in the Commons that this matter should be resolved once and for all, and as quickly as possible.

"This is necessary if we are to end the continued and damaging uncertainty around this issue, and - most importantly of all - to secure the safety of children who require cardiac treatment."

The original decision to close units in Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in London was part of a long and detailed review of children's heart services across England based on the aim of concentrating expertise in more specialist centres.

A shake-up of paediatric heart surgery units in England was triggered by the Bristol heart scandal between 1990 and 1995 when 35 babies died and dozens were brain damaged. Two separate legal challenges were launched against the Safe and Sustainable Review - conducted by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts - including a Leeds campaign group which fought a successful battle in the High Court.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said: "The length of time it is taking for a decision to be made is very destabilising for specialists. …

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