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  1. ITV Report

Review into children's heart surgery ordered

Campaigners have been fighting to keep the unit open Photo: Press Association

The Health Secretary has ordered a review into a controversial decision to close three children's heart surgery units, including one in Leeds.

Jeremy Hunt has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to carry out a review into the decision to close the units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in Chelsea in west London. The panel will decide by February whether it believes the recommendations to close the units will streamline paediatric heart services.

The review comes after councillors in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire contacted Mr Hunt with concerns about the closure of the unit at Glenfield.

Earlier this month a campaign group which is fighting to keep the Leeds unit open launched legal proceedings against NHS officials who made the decision. Save Our Surgery (SOS) said it has filed for permission for a judicial review against the decision made by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to close the unit. If the judicial review goes ahead, the IRP review will be put on hold.

The Secretary of State has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to conduct a full review of the Safe and Sustainable review of Children's Congenital Heart Services.

– Department of Health spokesperson

In July it was announced that the hospitals would stop performing the specialist surgery in a move to streamline paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services.

Officials decided to close the units after an NHS review concluded that expertise was spread too thinly and should be concentrated in fewer hospitals.

The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.

After the inquiry, it was recommended that paediatric cardiac units be set a target for the number of operations per year, and surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres to ensure quality of care.

The institutions which will house the specialist surgery centres are: Evelina Hospital, which is part of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust in London, Great Ormond Street in London, Southampton General Hospital, Birmingham Children's Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool.