UK

Children's Heart Surgery At Leeds General Infirmary To Reopen

05/04/2013 09:17 BST | Updated 05/04/2013 11:50 BST

Children's heart surgery is set to resume at Leeds General Infirmary after days of uncertainty over its future, hospital bosses have said.

The decision to "work together" to reopen the unit early next week was reached at a summit between Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, NHS England and other partners late on Thursday.

leeds general infirmary

LGI's children's heart unit was closed last week over safety fears

A spokesman for the trust said the agencies will act over the weekend to "provide sufficient assurance" that the unit is safe to reopen.

He said: "Following a productive multi-agency meeting to review the decision to suspend children's cardiac surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, agreement was reached to work together to restart surgery on the site early next week subject to independent assurance of concerns raised."

All operations at the unit were halted last Thursday after NHS figures suggested the unit had a death rate double that of other centres.

However, medical bodies, doctors and other experts have questioned the accuracy of the data, which they say was unverified and not fit to base such a decision on.

Maggie Boyle, chief executive of the trust, said: "I am extremely confident that this service is safe and effective and should recommence at the earliest opportunity. I want partner organisations to be as confident in the service as I am."

Mike Bewick, deputy medical director for NHS England, said: "The risk summit has been extremely useful in moving a difficult situation forward constructively.

"We will play our full part in supporting the safe reopening of the service at the earliest opportunity."

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Parents had criticised the timing of the unit's suspension, which came just 24 hours after a High Court judge ruled that a decision-making process to close it as part of an England-wide reorganisation of services was "legally flawed''.

But Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, had said the figures were among a "constellation of reasons'' the decision was made.

MPs had been waiting for the outcome of the meeting before deciding whether to ask the parliamentary Health Select Committee to investigate, according to a West Yorkshire MP.

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough, said he hoped the committee would look at "whether or not the right processes were made''.

Parents have reacted to the news with joy.

Jon Arnold, whose daughter Zoe underwent life-saving heart surgery at the unit in 2007 when she was three weeks old, said the news was a relief.

"There's been massive support from the parents and families for the unit, and this decision confirms what we thought about the quality of care all along," he said.

"My daughter had fantastic care at the unit.

"It was difficult to understand as a parent how they could have shut the ward so swiftly on the basis of unverified data. It left parents feeling very confused about what to believe and what was best for their child.

"Once the unit is reopened then a lot of the families will have a lot of questions that need to be answered about the manner in which it closed.

"The main thing is that babies and families that need urgent treatment can now get it on the unit without having to be shipped across the country to any available bed space."

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, said the decision to temporarily close the unit was hasty.

He said figures cited as evidence to support the suspension were incomplete and should never have been released.

Mr Mulholland called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to launch an investigation into what happened and raised serious concerns over the "conduct and the judgement" of Sir Bruce and Professor Sir Roger Boyle, director of the Nicor, which oversees cardiovascular mortality data across the NHS.

"I find it extraordinary that the medical director of the NHS still hasn't made a proper statement, still hasn't explained his actions and the actions of NHS England and that suggests to me that they are still scrabbling around trying to justify it," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

He went on: "We now need an investigation so we can get to the bottom of this decision, why it was taken, and we then need to understand that.

"But I think there are serious question marks over the conduct and the judgement of both (Sir) Roger Boyle and (Sir) Bruce Keogh."