Thousands protest against closure of children's heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary

 

Parents, nurses and MPs joined together today to take part in a demonstration against the ending of children's heart surgery at a hospital.

Thousands of people gathered in Millennium Square, Leeds, to protest at the proposal to end paediatric heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

The facility at Leeds was one of three earmarked for closure following a review of children's heart services.

The NHS review decided having 10 units carrying out children's heart surgery spread expertise too thin.

But campaigners say the closure of the Leeds unit would leave a population of 14 million people having to travel from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham for treatment.

Demonstrators wore Children's Heart Surgery Fund T-shirts and held banners and signs reading "SOS Save Our Surgery" and "Don't Break My Heart" as they gathered before a march around Leeds city centre.

They cheered in the sunshine as speakers stood on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall and rallied the crowds.

MPs Stuart Andrew, Hilary Benn, Greg Mulholland and Ed Balls were among those taking part in the march.

A roup of nurses joined the speaker on the steps with banners, which read: "Proud to deliver gold standard care" and "467 years of combined cardiac nursing experience lost".

One nurse, addressing the crowd, described the proposed closure as a "fundamentally flawed decision which has ignored the voices of Yorkshire families".

The demonstrators chanted "we shall not be moved" as they marched around the city and back into Millennium Square.

Parent Lois Brown, whose daughter has a heart condition, addressed the crowd before the march.

Cheers rang out as she said: "I think it's vital to keep this unit in Leeds. I'm loyal to this unit, I'm loyal to these fantastic staff, who I love. But I'm loyal to my child.

"We want change, we want the best service but we don't want it at the cost of our children's lives.

"We shall not be moved and we will keep it open."

After the march, a number of parents from across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire told the crowd how their journey times would increase if they had to travel to Newcastle instead of Leeds.

Sharon Cheng, director of the Children's Heart Surgery Fund, said around 3,000 people had taken part in the demonstration.

She said: "I'm overwhelmed basically. The strength of the turnout and the families and the patients. We've had people join us who are not connected to the unit, which speaks volumes."

Ms Cheng said they had been campaigning for the unit for 18 months and 600,000 people had signed a petition opposing the removal of children's heart surgery from the hospital.

"We understand why larger, fewer centres would make sense but you have to put them where the population is," she said.

"This centre is keeping these people safe. That's the bottom line here."

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, said he was pleased to be involved in the campaign.

He said: "We're here to show our support for all the families and staff at the unit who are clearly wanting to make their voices heard, how important this unit is individually but also for the region.

"There's a huge strength of feeling and I hope common sense will prevail."

Mr Andrew said there was a great atmosphere during the march.

"Everybody is determined to do what they can. People have actually taken the day off work to come here today, which shows how committed they are," he said.

Health minister Simon Burns last week said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley would "almost certainly" refer the concerns of local authorities to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

And tomorrow a health watchdog representing 15 councils across the Yorkshire and Humber region will meet in Leeds to review the decision.

The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Yorkshire and the Humber) will consider a range of evidence to help it determine whether or not the decision is in the interest of health services across the region.

If not, the Scrutiny Committee can refer the matter to Mr Lansley, who would make a final decision.

Professor Sir Roger Boyle, former clinical director for heart disease and stroke and clinical adviser to the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said Leeds General Infirmary would continue to provide cardiology services to children but surgery would be provided by fewer larger centres.

He said this decision would save more children's lives in the future.

Sir Roger said: "I recognise that people have shown a huge loyalty for the hospital in Leeds but pooling surgical expertise means the clinical community can work together, develop new techniques and deliver improved care to keep more children with complex heart conditions alive.

"The NHS was right to make a decision to expand services and improve the quality of care for children with complex heart conditions by pooling surgical expertise in fewer larger centres.

"The decision will improve clinical outcomes and save more children's lives in the future.

"Leeds General Infirmary will continue to play a vital role providing cardiology services to children."

Speaking about tomorrow's meeting, Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: "We are very open to additional scrutiny of the way in which the committee reached our decision.

"The review took three years to complete and my committee considered a wide range of evidence before making a decision on the best way to improve services for children with congenital heart disease. I look forward to demonstrating the robustness of the Safe and Sustainable review and explaining the different factors we considered before reaching our decision."

PA

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform