Children's heart surgery to restart at Leeds General Infirmary on Wednesday


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The Independent Online

Children's heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary will restart on Wednesday, NHS England said today.

Operations were halted at the unit last month after concerns were raised over death rate data and other issues - a decision that provoked anger, surprise and dismay from campaigners who had been fighting to keep open the threatened centre.

Last week, after a series of high-levels meetings, the hospital announced it would be allowed to restart surgery if a team of experts gave the necessary endorsements.

Yesterday, in a statement, NHS England announced a “phased restart” over the next month, beginning with lower-risk cases, after being assured by independent experts of the quality of surgery and staffing levels.

NHS England said it originally raised concerns about services at the LGI because of preliminary data suggesting high mortality, concerns about staffing levels, whistleblowing information from clinicians, and complaints from patients.

The body said that the second stage of its review – looking at how complaints from patients are handled and at patients' case notes over the last three years - “will now begin looking at other areas where improvement may be necessary”.

Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, said: "If we have learned anything from public inquiries such as Bristol and Mid Staffordshire it is that patients were harmed while organisations argued about the veracity of data used to measure clinical results, rather than addressing the underlying issues.

"We would not have been forgiven if a child had died or suffered unnecessary harm while we sat on our hands.”

Maggie Boyle, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Our partners and ourselves are now in a position to reassure those families coming to Leeds for treatment that our hospital is as safe as any children's heart surgery centre in England."

The Leeds centre has been earmarked for permanent closure following a nationwide review of children's cardiac services in England. A campaign group organised to fight that decision won a major victory in the High Court just a day before surgery was suspended.

Medical bodies, doctors and other experts have questioned the accuracy of the data used to support the suspension of surgery.

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, has said there had still been no proper explanation as to why the unit was closed and demanded those responsible were held to account.