Leeds hospital suspends child heart surgery

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey: "There are many questions which need answering"

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Children's congenital heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary has been suspended as a review is carried out.

There are concerns about the number of deaths at the hospital, which is at the centre of a long dispute over the future of children's heart services.

The medical director of the NHS, Bruce Keogh, said it was "a highly responsible precautionary step".

But some people have questioned the decision and its timing, 24 hours after a High Court ruling kept surgery there.

Leeds General Infirmary had been earmarked for closure by the NHS review to concentrate children's heart surgery in fewer bigger centres.

But that decision was quashed by a High Court judge on Wednesday.

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, who has led a cross-party campaign to keep the unit open, said it was a "very odd" decision coming after the jubilation that greeted the court ruling.

"We have always asked them 'is it safe at Leeds?' and the answer always came back 'yes it is'.

"What is the information that says that has changed?"

Congenital heart defects

  • Present in about six out of 1,000 babies
  • Take form of holes between chambers, blockages in pathways from heart to lungs or body, or abnormal connections between chambers and vessels of heart

He added he had not received one complaint about care.

Children who would have been treated in Leeds will be sent to other hospitals around England.

Affected families are being contacted directly by the trust and the review is expected to take three weeks.

Anne Keatley-Clarke, chief executive of the Children's Heart Federation, an umbrella group for different voluntary organisations, said she had raised concerns about surgery outcomes two years ago, and more recently parents had reported difficulties in getting referrals at Leeds to other heart units.

In a statement on the federation website, she said: "My concern is that it appears that managers and clinicians in Leeds, together with the parent support group, have put their own interests ahead of the well-being of critically ill children and their very vulnerable parents."

Sir Bruce and senior managers from the Care Quality Commission visited the hospital on Thursday to say it must stop all children's heart surgery there immediately.

Leeds General Infirmary There has been a battle to keep children's heart surgery in Leeds

In a statement, Sir Bruce said: "The trust has taken a highly responsible precautionary step.

"Some questions have been raised by the trust's own mortality data and by other information.

"It is important to understand that while this information raises questions, it does not give us answers."

The chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said outside experts would be drafted in to help review "all aspects" of care.

In a statement, Maggie Boyle apologised to parents and families affected but assured them the trust always put the safety of patients first.

The CQC said it supported the trust's decision and it was in close contact with the trust to ensure effective arrangements were in place to protect the safety and welfare of patients.

Sharon Cheng, from Save Our Surgery - the group which is co-ordinating the fight to keep children's heart surgery in Leeds - said: "We're mystified.

"We don't know of anything that could justify this step."

Previously, an NHS review said surgery should stop at hospitals in Leeds, Leicester and London to focus care at fewer, larger sites, where medical expertise can be concentrated.

More than 600,000 people signed a petition opposing the closure plans. Many people were unhappy that children from Leeds faced journeys of up to 150 miles for care.

The leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, said he was "shocked at the timing of today's events".

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