Campaigners fighting to keep a children's heart surgery unit in our region say they have done everything they possibly can - and are now waiting to learn its fate.
The centre, which is based at Leeds General Infirmary, is earmarked for closure - but today supporters had their final say at the High Court as they tried to reverse that decision. Chris Kiddey has been following the day's events.
The High Court hearing that campaigners hope will overturn the decision to close children's heart surgery in Leeds is expected to conclude today. They claim the decision was flawed. A judgement is expected to be made in a few weeks' time.
Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew has described today's meeting between local MPs and the independent panel looking into the proposed closure of the Leeds children's heart unit as "fruitful". He said the panel "listened very carefully" to all the arguments for keeping the service in Leeds.
Statement from the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trust:
We listened carefully to the views of the public and of the experts in the field before making our decision, and we concluded that the strongest option for the future configuration of children's heart surgical services did not include Leeds General Infirmary. I do not deny the right of citizens to challenge decision-makers when it is right to do so, and I know Leeds and the county of Yorkshire well - I was once Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. **
I have no doubt that the Leeds General Infirmary will continue to provide high quality specialist care for children with congenital heart disease - it is only the surgical and interventional aspect of treatment that will cease. Royal colleges of medicine have welcomed our decision as one that will save more children's lives in the future, and we stand ready to defend our process with confidence**
A new legal challenge begins today over proposals to change the provision of children's heart surgery across England. The highly controversial plans involve stopping operations at three hospitals including Leeds General Infirmary.
Children in the area will instead have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery. Campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS) is seeking a judicial review, arguing the consultation process was unfair and legally flawed.
If SOS wins its action there may have to be a rethink on delivering paediatric cardiac surgery nationwide. The two other units currently facing closure are at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital and London's Royal Brompton. The Brompton recently lost its own application for judicial review.
The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) decided care should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards and chose units at Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton and two London centres. Sharon Cheng, from SOS, said:
"Taking legal action has always been our last resort option pursued only after all other appeals to review the decision were rejected by the JCPCT. At the end of the day, this is about protecting the lives of children and this is why we believe that the challenges to NHS officials should be heard."