MP helps heart unit facing axe

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RIpon’s MP has added his voice to calls to keep live-saving children’s heart surgery available in Yorkshire.

Julian Smith joined patients, parents, doctors and nurses calling on the unit to be saved.

A group of supporters delivered a petition to Downing Street.

Campaigners unloaded the petition, signed by half a million people, from an amulance and carried it into Downing Street on a strecther.

Protesters said the the petition – which they believe is the biggest regional petition ever – shows the strength of support for services at Leeds Children’s Hospital.

They want to put pressure on the NHS to keep the heart unit in Leeds, which is included in only one of four possible configurations of heart surgery centres in a national review.

Hundreds of children from Yorkshire could face travelling to Liverpool, Newcastle or the Midlands under the plans.

Mr Smith has written to Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, urging him to save the children’s heart surgery unit in Yorkshire.

“I strongly believe that the Children’s Heart Surgery Unit at the Leeds General Infirmary should be retained,” he said.

“I have spoken to parents in Ripon who credit the Leeds unit with saving their child’s life.”

He said he believes the location of the unit in Leeds General Infirmary, which sees all the specialist services needed for children’s heart surgery avaiable on one site, had been undervalued in the review process, and that travelling to distant hospitals would be extremely difficult for people in the Ripon and Skipton constituency.

“One of the concerns expressed to me is that getting to another unit – be it Newcastle or Leicester or Liverpool – from somewhere like the Yorkshire Dales or Nidderdale would mean significantly increased travel time, especially for those parents who have to rely on public transport.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said “This independent review is being led by experts within the NHS to ensure children’s heart surgery remains safe and fit for purpose in the future.

“No decisions have been made yet and it would be premature to preempt the outcome of the consultation.”