Glenfield child heart surgery unit campaigners to fight closure

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Media captionThe hospital serves a population of about five million

Campaigners trying to keep children's heart surgery services in Leicester have said they will fight to keep the unit open.

It was announced on Wednesday that the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, at Glenfield Hospital, was to stop children's surgery services.

It was one of 10 units under review nationally with the intention to focus expertise in fewer locations.

The charity Heartlink said it would not accept the judgement.

'Improvement in care'

A spokesman for the charity, John Rigby, said: "We're going to take stock, listen to what our reps have to say and be guided by them. We're going to fight to do our very best to keep children's services here [at Glenfield]."

The centre, which conducts about 230 operations on children and 70 on adults each year, has the UK's largest ECMO unit (a form of partial cardiopulmonary bypass) which oxygenates blood of critically ill patients.

The unit will stop surgery for children but will remain open to diagnose patients and for monitoring and non-surgical treatment.

It serves a population of about five million, with the next nearest similar unit in Birmingham, about 40 miles (64.4km) away.

Leslie Hamilton, vice chair of the Safe and Sustainable review's steering group, said that as surgeons they felt surgical expertise was spread too thinly around the country.

He said: "We felt we had to concentrate the expertise and reduce the number of centres in the country so we could have bigger centres with bigger surgical teams.

"That would lead to sustainable care for the future and also a big improvement in care."

Tony Fowlston has a three-year-old son, Lewis, who has been treated at Glenfield. The family travels a distance of about 60 miles (96.5km) from Boston, in Lincolnshire, to see specialists.

He said travelling any further could be a real issue as Lewis recently suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after arriving at Glenfield.

Mr Fowlston said: "He could have had that cardiac arrest on the way to, say, Birmingham. Could he have had the same service in the back of an ambulance? I very much doubt it."

A petition to save the unit attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

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