16 families let down by children's heart surgery unit

The region's only children's heart surgery unit is safe according to a review, but 16 families were let down by the level of care.

Live updates

Review concludes children's heart unit is safe

It is safe - but mistakes were still made. That's the verdict of a review published today into the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

The health trust has been forced to apologise to 16 families it let down, but the unit, which was closed for two weeks last year over concerns about death rates, is safe to treat some of the region's most poorly children. David Hirst reports.

MP calls for Sir Bruce Keogh to apologise for stopping children's heart surgery in Leeds

Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, has welcomed the NHS England report which confirms Leeds Children’s Heart Surgery Unit is safe and always has been.

The review, commissioned after operations were suspended for two weeks at the Unit last March, has concluded that the Unit at Leeds General Infirmary does not have an excessive mortality rate.

The review has confirmed that the Leeds Children's Heart Unit is safe and was safe all along, which confirms that NHS England were wrong to suspend surgery there last year. It is time for Sir Bruce Keogh to have the courage to admit this and to apologise. Apart from the turmoil that his decision caused for the medical staff and the families of children awaiting surgery, the fact remains that stopping surgery at a safe unit, as it was and is, puts children at greater risk.

It is also important that each and every complaint in any area of the NHS must be listened to and dealt with and as an MP I have and will continue to support people who feel they have not had adequate care. This is a different matter from the issue of safety, however, and NHS England must have and stick to a clear criteria for stopping surgery in any hospital and a proper process for doing so. In this case, they failed on both counts and made a knee jerk decision based on unverified, and as we discovered incomplete, data.

NHS England must therefore review how and why they got it wrong in Leeds and how they can learn lessons to ensure they don't do so again elsewhere.

Now this review has been published, I hope the Leeds Children's Heart Unit can get on with its life saving work and, as with all parts of the NHS, continue to strive to ensure that all patients feel they are getting the best care possible. The surgery and the unit can now operate with the endorsement of NHS England and the Department for Health and the confidence that everyone knows it is safe and sustainable.

– Greg Mulholland MP


  1. National

Report outlines 'lack of compassion' at Leeds hospital

The second part of a report that ruled Leeds General Infirmary's children's heart unit is safe, outlined the experiences of 16 families who complained about care their children received at the unit, prompting six to have their child's treatment transferred to another centre.

  • One mother said she felt pressurised into having an abortion, which was against her Muslim beliefs
  • A bereaved parent told the investigators: "We were given no support by the staff after Annie died. We were given a leaflet. Nobody asked how we were getting home in the early hours of the morning."
  • Another described how a book had gone missing in which their son had been writing about his experiences before his death. "It was like losing another part of him," the parent said. "They [staff] didn't seem bothered ... We had been going to Leeds for 10 years and no-one has rung to see how we are."

Apology just the beginning for heart surgery unit mum

Michelle Elliott from Doncaster is one of the mothers to receive an apology from the Leeds Teaching Hopsitals NHS Trust in the report about mortality rates.

She believes her 13-year-old daughter Jessica waited so long for a heart transplant, after doctors said she wasn't sick enough, that she ended up having a stroke.

Jessica was finally referred to Newcastle where she had the operation - but the stroke has left her debilitated for life. Michelle, who has fought for all the families through her group Fragile Hearts says the apology should only be the beginning.


Back to top

Latest ITV News reports