High Court ruling gives hope to heart Glenfield Hospital campaigners
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep a local heart surgery unit have welcomed a court's decision over another threatened centre.
A group in Yorkshire, called Save Our Surgery, went to the High Court in London yesterday to oppose the closure of Leeds Children's Heart Unit.
Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled that the challenge must succeed because health bosses had not consulted with patients properly – but what the victory means for the future will be decided at a later date.
Patients and their families in Nottinghamshire have been watching developments closely, as the Leeds centre is one of three under threat.
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One of the others is Glenfield Hospital in Leicester which cares for children from all over the East Midlands, including Notts.
If it closed, children with heart defects would have to travel to Birmingham for operations.
Gill Smart, treasurer of local support group Heart Link, said the decision about the Leeds unit was good news for Notts heart patients and their families.
She said: "I hope it's one more step forwards than backwards. We are pleased they have won.
"We just want to know what the next step will be."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked an independent panel to carry out a review into the decision to close the unit at Glenfield Hospital and the results are expected at the end of this month.
An Save Our Surgery statement after yesterday's High Court decision said: "This judgment is in itself a victory for the people who fought to keep children's heart surgery services in Yorkshire, and to challenge what they knew to be a flawed and unjust process."
Group spokeswoman Sharon Cheng, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, stressed the ruling did not necessarily mean the Leeds heart unit was saved, and pointed out that much would depend on what orders the judge decides to make when the matter returns to court later this month.
One possibility is that the judge will order fresh consultations.
This which could throw the plans for the reorganisation of children's heart surgery around the country into delay and disarray.
Ms Cheng added: "We have won this case on every point."
The legal challenge stems from a decision last July by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) that paediatric cardiac surgery should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards across the country.
The sites currently chosen to stay open are at Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton and two London centres.
Facing closure are the Leeds site and units at London's Royal Brompton and Glenfield. The Brompton lost an earlier legal challenge to the proposals.
John Illingworth, chairman of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "The ruling is a huge boost to the campaign to keep the children's heart surgery unit in Leeds open."