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Heart Unit: 'we take any safety concerns seriously'

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt declined to give his decision on the future of the Children's Heart Unit at Leeds General Infirmary today, saying instead that he would 'duck any necessary debates'.

Operations at Leeds General Infirmary could end, under NHS plans to create fewer, safer centres across the country - meaning patients would need to travel elsewhere for treatment.

Last year the health secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned an independent review into the consultation process. He's currently considering its findings.

Full report: scathing attack on children's heart surgery review

The head of the group representing the 15 councils in Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire has launched a scathing attack on the children's heart surgery review.

Councillor John Illingworth has written to the Health Secretary, ahead of next weeks expected decision on the controversial consultation process. Tina Gelder reports.

Scathing attack on heart surgery unit review

Leeds General Infirmary Credit: PA

The head of the group representing the 15 councils in Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire has launched a scathing attack on the review of children's heart surgery units in England. Councillor John Illingworth is chair of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Board.

The Safe and Sustainable Review of paediatric cardiac services has left the unit at the Leeds General Infirmary under threat. In a letter to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Cllr Illlingworth has described it as "among the worst of NHS studies conducted in recent years."

The re-organsiation of services aims to create fewer, but larger specialised centres to improve outcomes for younger patients.

A spokesman for the Department of Health did not respond to the criticism, but said "The Health Secretary is currently considering the findings of the Independent Review Panel into the process in detail".

Mr Hunt is expected to release his findings next week.


In context of Mid Staffordshire, heart unit closure "right thing", says Health Secretary

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that it was "absolutely the right thing" to suspend children's heart operations at Leeds General Infirmary.

When he was grilled by MPs about the suspension of surgery, Mr Hunt said NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh did the "responsible thing" by temporarily closing the unit after seeing mortality statistics that suggested death rates were higher than the national average.

During the scandals at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and Bristol Royal Infirmary, officials spent time analysing high mortality rates while patients were being harmed, Mr Hunt said.

"I completely understand the widespread concern in Leeds and neighbouring areas about the future of the heart surgery unit and I understand and appreciate why this is something that people feel extremely strongly about and indeed the distress that this kind of issue causes.

"I do think we need to have a different approach to safety issues in the NHS. What happened at Bristol and what happened at Mid Staffs was that there was disturbing data and then a big argument about whether the data was any good, and nothing was done in the period in between. The result was that patients continued to be harmed.

"If there is a potential problem, the responsible thing, the only thing that Bruce Keogh could have done - faced with the information that he had - was to say: 'We're going to get to the bottom of this data, we're going to find out if it's right or not, but we're going to suspend heart surgery while we do that'.

"And I think that was absolutely the right decision."

– Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary

Minister rejects heart unit claim

The Government played no part in the decision to suspend children's heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, peers were told today.

Health minister Earl Howe said the decision was taken by the local health trust in agreement with the Care Quality Commission and NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

The Government strongly believes that it was the right thing to do.

It is absolutely right that the NHS should act quickly and decisively if there is any evidence that patient safety maybe at risk.

– Lord Howe

But Liberal Democrat Lord Shutt of Greetland warned there had been "murky internal health politicking" going on over the issue of children's heart surgery in Yorkshire.

Why is the Government determined to deny the people of Yorkshire a children's heart unit when Yorkshire has a population of 5.3 million - similar to Scotland, Denmark and Finland.

Yorkshire is double the size of the north east of England, where the Government is happy to see that region locally served.

– Lord Shutt of Greetland

Lord Howe said the premise of Lord Shutt's question was "incorrect", adding:

The Government has not taken a role in this matter. This is a matter which

the NHS has led. There's no agenda by the Government at all apart from our

desire to see the best possible children's cardiac services provided in this


– Lord Howe

Heart unit campaigner: appeal is a waste of money

Heart campaigner Sharon Cheng says the NHS appeal is a "waste of money".

The NHS said yesterday there are "good grounds" to appeal a decision made in the High Court regarding the future of children's heart surgery in Leeds.

Last month a judge ruled that the safe and sustainable review panel's decision to close the unit was based on flawed information

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