Heart unit campaigners to appeal against closure

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CAMPAIGNERS have pledged to appeal a decision to close Yorkshire’s only children’s heart unit.

Hundreds of families with poorly children in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster will have to travel to Newcastle after NHS bosses decided to close the Leeds unit.

Parents who campaigned for two years against the closure reacted with despair after the news was announced on Wednesday night.

Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “Clinical logic has not been taken into consideration. We will now appeal to the Health Minister as he assured us a decision would be made on clinical logic. This has not happened.”

Sheffield Heeley MP Meg Munn said: “The decision means children and families from Sheffield will have to travel much further for life-saving surgery. This will be devastating news to the thousands of families who have fought so hard.

“The campaign presented a very strong case for keeping children’s heart surgery in Leeds and we want to look closely at the basis on which this decision was made.”

Speaking in Parliament, Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield demanded the Government make a statement on the closure.

“We need a full debate before the Secretary of State considers the recommendation,” he said later.

Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East, added: “This is bitterly disappointing news.

“I understand there may still be scope for local authorities to appeal against the result and take it to ministers in the Department of Health.

“As long as there is a chance that this decision can be reversed, we will continue to fight on.”

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central, said the news was a ‘devastating blow, adding: “It leaves some serious questions for the Government to answer. I will be supporting the appeal against this appalling decision.”

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “We recognise these are difficult decisions to make, and that some people will be disappointed to lose their nearest surgical centre.

“However, we believe our decision is in the best interests of all children and will ensure services are safe and sustainable for the future.”