Campaigners welcome u-turn on child heart unit closures

The decision to stop heart surgery on children at certain hospitals has been controversial Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suspended a review which threatened to close three children's heart surgery units after announcing its proposals were based on flawed analysis.

Units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, the Royal Brompton in west London were set to close.

The closures were to have been part of a scheme to reorganise children's cardiac services across England into fewer, more specialised units.

But Mr Hunt also warned that the decision to leave the units open for the time being "is not a mandate for the status quo" and that change would come.

ITV News correspondent Paul Davies reports:

There are currently 10 hospitals in England offering children's heart surgery. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel report recommended that these be reduced to fewer specialist units.

  • Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

  • Birmingham Children's Hospital

  • Leeds General Infirmary

  • Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool

  • Freeman Hospital in Newcastle

  • Southampton General Hospital

  • Great Ormond Street in London

  • Royal Brompton in London

  • Evelina Hospital, part of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust in London

  • Glenfield Hospital

John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford was originally part of the consultation process but it suspended its children's heart programme in 2010 following a spate of deaths.

Mr Hunt said the clinical case for change remains, but said there had been flaws in the way that units were selected for closure.

Members of the campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS), gathered at Leeds General Infirmary today to hear the Secretary's statement to the House of Commons.

In a statement afterwards, SOS spokeswoman Sharon Cheng said the group felt "completely vindicated" in its efforts to prevent the closure of the heart unit at Leeds.

His comments about the Safe & Sustainable process and outcome completely vindicate the action that we took to challenge this, and demonstrate that exposing the flaws in the review was the right and necessary thing to do ... The trauma experienced by patients and families across our Region throughout the Safe & Sustainable process, as acknowledged by the Health Secretary, must never be repeated.

Another campaigner and former patient, 16-year-oldJoe Barry, said he would not have survived as a baby if he had been forced to make the journey to a heart unit in Newcastle.

Mr Hunt agreed with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Bunham that a review of childrens' heart heart surgery had taken too long and that the selection process had lost the confidence of the public.

"There was a sense that the outcome was predetermined before the consultation even started," he said adding that NHS England needed to come up with a "much better process".