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Newcastle health bosses defend criticism of Leeds unit

Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Bosses at the Freeman Hospital Children's Heart Unit in Newcastle have strongly defended the decision to submit a dossier of concerns about a rival unit as it battled for its future.

A report published today suggests some of the claims about treatment of young patients at the Leeds General Infirmary were unsubstantiated and could not be properly described as legitimate whistle-blowing.

The controversy over the heart unit was set against a background of concerns raised by surgeons in Newcastle about the care provided in Leeds.

An independent review found improvements have been made at Leeds General Infirmary, which temporarily closed last year due to fears over mortality rates.

But, the report was critical of the rivalry between heart surgeons at the two paediatric units whose futures were under threat.

The action I took was in the public interest, and if such circumstances arose, I would do the same again.

We have a duty of candour, we are here to provide the best possible National Health Service. That was our objective and it remains there today.

– Sir Len Fenwick, Chief Executive, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


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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
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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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LGI campaigners: NHS Appeal "serves no benefits to patients."

Campaigners fighting to save the Leeds children's heart surgery unit say an appeal by the NHS against a previous High Court Ruling is a "disgraceful waste of time and taxpayers' money."

Pursuing this appeal serves no benefit to patients. Instead it is about protecting reputations and trying to salvage what is a flawed and thoroughly discredited process.

– Sharon Cheng, Save Our Surgery campaign


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Leeds MP says NHS appeal is "wasting taxpayers' money"

Greg Mulholland, the MP for Leeds North West has attacked the NHS's decision to try and appeal against a High Court ruling regarding the closure of the city's children's heart unit.

They are wasting yet more taxpayers money and instead, they should accept the justifiable criticism of the original decision and process and now seek to conduct a decision making process on the best future for children's heart surgery in England & Wales and do so impartially and in the best interests of patients.

– Greg Mulholland MP, Leeds North West

Breaking: Heart unit appeal

The NHS England is appealing against a ruling in the High Court which quashed a decision which could have lead to the closure of the children's heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

Last month, a judge ruled that the decision to close the unit was based on flawed information.

Campaigners fighting for the futiure of child heart surgery in Leeds tonight say they don't want the NHS to waste any more time and money and want them to withdraw their appeal.

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Heart unit latest: NHS says "there are good grounds for appeal."

The NHS in England says 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.

In announcing their intention to appeal the ruling, NHS England tonight said:

NHS England believes that we must deliver this change as quickly as possible on behalf of children and their families. To do this, we need to take account of all the available information, including the recent High Court ruling of 27 March and the report on the issues that is due to be published by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

We have been advised that there are good grounds for appeal and these points are set out in an application that has been submitted to the Court of Appeal.

– NHS England statement
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Children's heart surgery unit row doctor resigns

Professor Sir Roger Boyle has stepped down as director of the National Institute of Clinical Outcomes Research. He has been at the centre of the row over the future of the Leeds Children's Heart Surgery Unit.

He said that he would not want his daughter to be treated at Leeds. The comments led to him being taken off the review team that is overseeing changes to children's heart surgery.

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