1. ITV Report

Freeman heart unit decision date set

Campaigners welcomed today's Appeal Court decision, which paves the way to a decision about the Freeman's future. Photo: ITV

Campaigners fighting to save children's heart services in Newcastle will find out if they've been successful on July 4th.

The announcement of the date follows a crucial legal ruling, allowing the decision making process to continue. The NHS wants to close some heart units to create fewer, larger centres around the country.

The court action has delayed an open and honest process of consultation and has been frustrating to many of us, including Royal Colleges and professional associations who have said that change to children's heart services is long overdue.

– Sir Neil McKay, Chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts

There are four options for change. The first three would leave Newcastle's services as they are, but the fourth option would transfer surgical services to Leeds and Liverpool.

The Freeman's children's heart unit would survive in three out of four options being considered. Credit: ITV

The selection has been on hold since the autumn, when London's Royal Brompton Hospital brought a legal challenge. The High Court found the process was unfair, and ordered a judicial review. But judges at the Court of Appeal today overturned that decision, saying the process is 'lawful'.

Patients' parents, who are campaigning to keep the Freeman open, welcomed the court's decision. They say it provides some certainty about when a decision will be made, avoiding months of legal wrangling as the process is dragged through the courts.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Freeman, declined to comment.