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In context of Mid Staffordshire, heart unit closure "right thing", says Health Secretary

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that it was "absolutely the right thing" to suspend children's heart operations at Leeds General Infirmary.

When he was grilled by MPs about the suspension of surgery, Mr Hunt said NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh did the "responsible thing" by temporarily closing the unit after seeing mortality statistics that suggested death rates were higher than the national average.

During the scandals at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and Bristol Royal Infirmary, officials spent time analysing high mortality rates while patients were being harmed, Mr Hunt said.

"I completely understand the widespread concern in Leeds and neighbouring areas about the future of the heart surgery unit and I understand and appreciate why this is something that people feel extremely strongly about and indeed the distress that this kind of issue causes.

"I do think we need to have a different approach to safety issues in the NHS. What happened at Bristol and what happened at Mid Staffs was that there was disturbing data and then a big argument about whether the data was any good, and nothing was done in the period in between. The result was that patients continued to be harmed.

"If there is a potential problem, the responsible thing, the only thing that Bruce Keogh could have done - faced with the information that he had - was to say: 'We're going to get to the bottom of this data, we're going to find out if it's right or not, but we're going to suspend heart surgery while we do that'.

"And I think that was absolutely the right decision."

– Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary