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Leeds Children’s Hospital (Heart Surgery Unit)

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2013

3. What representations he has received from clinicians in Yorkshire and the Humber on the decision to close the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds children’s hospital. (136834)

I know that some are disappointed at the decision by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts and want to see children’s congenital heart surgery continue at their local hospitals. However, the Safe and Sustainable review was an NHS review, independent of Government. Under the circumstances, and given that legal proceedings and a review by the independent reconfiguration panel are under way, my hon. Friend will understand that it is not appropriate for me to comment further.

One hundred and seventy clinicians from across Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire have written to express their dismay at the decision, stating that for time-critical transfers it

“exposes a number of children to the risk of death,”

largely because it will require transfers to Newcastle, where services are not co-located. Does that not prove that the decision does not enjoy clinical support in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire and that it is simply not true that this has been a clinically led review?

I have seen the letter to which my hon. Friend refers and I understand that these are extremely complex issues. Let me reassure him that when I take my final decision, it will be on a clinically led basis. I will do that when I have received the IRP’s report, which I am due to receive by 28 March.

The independent reconfiguration panel has already visited Leeds and I understand that it will visit again before that date. If it decided that both Leeds and Newcastle ought to stay open, would that be agreed?

I will make my decision when I have the IRP’s final recommendation. Obviously I cannot speculate on what the final decision will be, but let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman, as I did with my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), that my decision will be taken on the basis of clinical need—in other words, what will save the most lives.

I note my right hon. Friend’s comments about his final decision being based on clinical advice, but will he also give consideration to patients and families in areas that are more remote from the centre, such as my constituency? This decision causes extra strain and cost to families and will also mean that they will not go to Newcastle, and therefore Newcastle will not achieve its target number of operations.

I am aware of those arguments. There is always the difficult issue of access versus the benefits of clinical specialisation, but I need to wait for the IRP to report before I can give a view on how it applies in this instance.

I understand the Secretary of State’s reluctance—quite rightly—to comment on the processes he is going through, but will he confirm that he expects full transparency in the review process? That means all the minutes of the JCPCT being given to the review process and none of them being redacted.

I do want this to be a transparent process and we will follow all the appropriate guidelines in that respect.

I must say to the House that if we are to get through the questions we need shorter questions and shorter answers from now on.