Outrage at heart unit closure

Lorraine Hodkinson pictured with Son Jacob, three,  is campaigning over threats to move children's heart surgery from Leeds to Newcastle (w110322-6c)
Lorraine Hodkinson pictured with Son Jacob, three, is campaigning over threats to move children's heart surgery from Leeds to Newcastle (w110322-6c)
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A Gateford mother has spoken of her ‘outrage’ at a decision by NHS bosses to close Yorkshire’s only children’s heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

Loraine Hodkinson, 40, was one of many parents who backed a major campaign to save the specialist unit from being closed as part of NHS reforms.

Her son Jacob, now four, had life-saving heart surgery at Leeds when he was just nine days old.

Loraine said she felt ‘deflated’ the heart unit is to close after more than 650,000 people signed the petition to keep it open.

“I have always been fighting for Leeds for any future parents who may face our situation with a nine-day old baby,” she said.

“I am scared for the parents of children in our area who require emergency heart surgery as our son Jacob did, and what effect this will have on the survival rates due to increased travel times.”

She added: “People may switch off when they hear Leeds but this decision stands to affect every child in Bassetlaw who could need vital heart surgery one day.”

“We were told Leicester would be the next alternative but now that has also closed, the nearest units for surgery would be Newcastle or Birmingham.”

Following an announcement made on last Wednesday, NHS bosses decided the best option for future heart surgery provision would contain two centres in London and one each in Southampton, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Announcing the decision Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “This is a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for which will enable the NHS to improve care for children with congenital heart disease.”

“The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review. We only took the decision today after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land. Before making our decision, we carefully considered the responses to public consultation and all the available evidence and advice.”

“Parents, patients and clinicians told us consistently during consultation that quality of care should be the most important factor, so hospitals’ ability to meet the new national quality standards was foremost in our minds when coming to this decision.”

“We recognise these are difficult decisions to make, and that some people will be disappointed to lose their nearest surgical centre. However, we strongly believe our decision is in the best interests of all children and will ensure services are safe and sustainable for the future.”