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NHS bosses arrive in Leicester to discuss children's heart surgery at Glenfield Hospital

The campaign to save the facility at Glenfield began last month after health bosses said it'd be better if children were treated in Birmingham or Leeds.

Our Health Correspondent Stacey Foster took up the story and met the family of Harry Williamson who has benefited from life saving surgery at the hospital.

Why today's meeting might raise more questions than answers:

Today bosses from NHS England will arrive in Leicester to explain exactly why they want to stop children's heart surgery there. This is the first face-to-face public meeting between the NHS, the hospital, the council, members of the public and the local media since the proposals were first announced.

The Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, Cllr Rory Palmer, will invite NHS England to explain their proposals. The meeting starts at 4pm and the Glenfield discussions should finish around 5pm.

But, this meeting isn't about negotiation, a formal consultation process on the proposals will have to take place before any "closing down" signs go up. NHS England will simply explain why they think Leicester should close. And let's remember, this unit has been here before, campaigners have long fought attempts to stop children's heart surgery in Glenfield (which services patients in Nottingham, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire as well).

NHS England say closing the East Midlands unit (Glenfield) is the best thing for children's heart surgery nationally and from the press release they sent to us yesterday, they think Glenfield is just too small to be viable in the future.

NHS England says Glenfield doesn't have enough surgeons and the unit doesn't carry out enough operations to warrant it staying open. It says the Trust which runs the hospital didn't give enough assurances that it could increase both the number of surgeons and the number of operations to meet the targets for children's heart units in the coming years. I've spoken to the trust at length over the past few weeks. Doctors working at Glenfield dispute this claim. It will be interesting to hear this exchange in the meeting later.

To quote NHS England:

"Leicester’s self-assessment showed that the annual volume of surgical procedures for each of their three surgeons is currently below the minimum of 125 required to maintain and improve quality and consistency. Further, as the number of surgeons required in each centre increases from three to four in coming years, the National Panel which reviewed responses from Trusts were not assured that the Trust had a credible plan to increase the number of surgeries performed at Glenfield to a minimum of 500 a year."

– NHS England.
Credit: ITV News

In addition, the Trust was not able to provide assurance of their ability to meet future standards relating to the timely, close proximity of other crucial specialist services for children being treated at the Glenfield site - in particular, those specialising in gastroenterology, and paediatric surgery."

NHS England say no decisions have yet been made and that there will be a formal consultation later in the year. But already it's clear the quality of patient care is at the heart of the debate, and both sides couldn't be further apart on what is best for the critically ill children of the East Midlands.

Credit: ITV News

ITV News Central in the East Midlands will be live from that meeting on the programme at 6pm.