Fight goes on over heart surgery unit.
THE FIGHT goes on!
That was the unequivocal message last night from campaigners who had fought to keep a children's heart surgery unit in West Yorkshire. Just 24 hours after the bitterly-disappointing news that the unit at Leeds was to close, following a national review, there was united opposition to the decision.
Politicians, parents and medical staff vowed to fight on and try and stop the closure going ahead.
Linthwaite mum Gaynor Bearder, who was at the eight-hour NHS Safe and Sustainable Review meeting which made the decision, said it was "disgusting".
She is the mum of young Joel Bearder, whose life was saved by surgery at the Leeds unit.
Ms Bearder said: "We are not accepting this. The way they reached this decision was disgraceful. It was obviously done and dusted before they started the pretence of a meeting - we were even given a booklet about the new system within minutes of the meeting ending.
"We are going to fight on for the sake of millions of people in this area. It is not right that Yorkshire children should have to travel hours or hundreds of miles for vital surgery." Another parent, Mary Dennison, of Brighouse, has a son with Down's Syndrome, who underwent surgery at the Leeds unit.
She said: "It is difficult enough to have a child facing life or death surgery without the extra pressure of being away from your own area. They have to travel for pre-op assessments and follow-ups after the operation.
"Leeds has got great networks - road rail etc - and all children's services are on one site. Children who need heart operations also need extra care.
"I am gutted. Fourteen years ago my son Jack had his emergency operation - if we had not been in the Leeds hospital he would not be here now."
Clr Mehboob Khan, Leader of Kirklees Council, has hit out at the decision to end children's heart surgery in Leeds.
The move means that families from Kirklees will now have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool for life-saving surgery.
And he vowed to fight on with supporters to push for the decision to be reconsidered.
Clr Khan said: "There are many reasons why this decision is a disaster for families in our area.
"The travelling time, the expense, the loss of expert support from the region, the numbers of people that will need to use the chosen hospitals - 600,000 people who signed the biggest petition in the history of the NHS can't all be wrong.
"This is a huge blow for the campaigners, the local families who have fought so hard to retain the service at Leeds, and for those in the future who will suffer as a result of this decision.
"I fear it might also have an impact on the adult specialist heart surgery unit at Leeds.
"But while we have lost this battle, we must still campaign to win the war and work at the highest levels of government to see the decision overturned.
"I will be seeing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - a Yorkshire MP - at the Leeds City Region city deal launch and look forward to hearing his views."
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman was left angered by the decision.
He and other MPs have managed to get a question tabled in the House of Commons for next Tuesday.
"I shall fight on with this. "I am desperately disappointed and angered by this decision and the fight does not end here. We shall try to reverse this decision."
Sir Neil McKay CB, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, defended the decision. He 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 after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land."
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