The move to suspend the children's heart surgery unit in Leeds has come under the spotlight again after an expert in health statistics questioned the figures that led to the decision.
Sir Brian Jarman, an expert on mortality data, told the Independent on Sunday that, from his analysis over the last four years, the death rates at Leeds were average.
He said the rates were "a little high" but "not significantly higher than other units".
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu visited the Leeds children's heart unit today to lead prayers with patients and staff.
It comes after surgery was suspended following claims of high death rates, something doctors there say is "inaccurate and misleading."
Staff at the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle are preparing to take referrals whilst an investigation takes place.
Doctors at the children's heart unit in Leeds have hit back at claims death rates are twice the national average. A consultant in children's cardiology, Elspeth Brown has told ITV News Calendar death rates are comparable to other hospitals. Surgery was suspended at the unit on Thursday.
The Archbishop of York has called on the Health Secretary to intervene over the controversial suspension of the children's heart surgery unit in Leeds.
Dr John Sentamu visited the threatened unit and prayed with parents of poorly children today. It comes after doctors at the unit described claims by senior NHS managers that death rates there are twice the national average as "inaccurate and misleading."
Dr Sentamu said that if the data is wrong then the medical director of NHS England Sir Bruce Keogh has serious questions to answer.
Concerns that two "junior" surgeons were in charge of the children's congenital surgery at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) prompted the decision to suspend operations there, according to Professor Sir Roger Boyle, an NHS adviser involved with the decision.
The hospital, which is at the centre of a row over the future of its children's heart services, is carrying out an internal review after data suggested a death rate twice the national average.
Professor Boyle, director of the National Institute of Clinical Outcomes Research (Nicor) which overseas mortality rates across the NHS, said the figures were among a number of reasons he advised the unit should be suspended. He told BBC Breakfast:
Concerns raised by families through the Children's Heart Foundation that they weren't being given the opportunity to be transferred to other units when they'd requested that.
And I was also aware a senior surgeon was away on holiday, another surgeon was suspended and that left the service being offered to the public by two relatively junior, local surgeons.
To have two relatively inexperienced people holding fort, without the ability for any senior advice, is a precarious situation in my view.
It's a question of experience and fine balance between being able to offer a safe service and one that is precarious.
– Dr John Gibbs, chairman of the steering committee for the Central Cardiology Audit Database
I'm absolutely furious.
This data was not fit to looked at by anyone outside the committee.It was at a very preliminary stage and we are at the start of a long process to make sure the data was right and the methodology was correct.
We would be irresponsible if we didn't put in every effort to get the data right.
The steering committee for the Central Cardiology Audit Database (CCAD) supplied the data which contributed to Sir Bruce Keogh's decision to stop the Leeds General Infirmary children's congenital heart surgery.
I spoke to Jeremy Hunt this afternoon and stressed to him the importance of maximum openness. The decision to stop operations has come as a great shock to all of us and we need all the facts to be put in the open.
Sir Bruce Keogh said this morning that the data showed Leeds to have a mortality rate that was twice the national average. Now we discover that the person responsible for the data Dr John Gibbs, chairman of the steering committee for the Central Cardiology Audit Database (CCAD), is reported to have said that the mortality figures were preliminary, had not undergone the usual rigorous checking process and were not fit to be looked at by anyone outside the committee.
– Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central
The only way to resolve this is for the data - with all the caveats included - to be published immediately so that it can be examined, and I urge the Secretary of State to do so without delay.
It is clearly a particularly worrying time for parents whose children are currently in the heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary, and for those scheduled to receive surgery in the coming weeks.
However they are reassured by the local NHS Trust that their treatment will not be compromised.
This suspension of surgery and internal review are expected to last up to three weeks - it adds more uncertainty to the future of this children's ward. Its long term survival still hangs in the balance.