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Children's Heart Surgery (Yorkshire and the Humber)

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 11 June 2013

3. What plans he has for the future of children’s heart surgery provision in Yorkshire and the Humber. (158868)

I asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to undertake a full review of the “Safe and Sustainable” review of children’s congenital heart services. I have received and am currently considering that advice, and will make my decision known shortly—perhaps very shortly.

I am grateful for that answer. Will my right hon. Friend accept that the Leeds unit has undergone the greatest scrutiny of any of the units included in the review, and has met all the standards required? Will he therefore assure patients, families and staff that both he and NHS England have every confidence in the performance and standards of the Leeds unit? If we are to have informed choices on the future of heart units, surely all units must be subject to the same scrutiny.

First, I want to congratulate my hon. Friend on the sustained campaigning that he has done for that children’s heart unit, and on the very responsible way that he has conducted himself in what has been an extremely difficult campaign for the people of Leeds. I have full confidence in children’s heart surgery at Leeds; I know that the Leeds unit does an excellent job. He will understand, as I do, that when there are safety concerns, they have to be investigated, but I am delighted that those issues have been resolved, and that surgery is continuing.

The hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) is right that the Leeds unit has been subject to greater scrutiny than any other unit, and the decisions in its case have been more seriously flawed than in the case of any other unit. What guarantee can the Secretary of State give those families across Yorkshire who depend on this major, life-changing surgery that the unit will not simply be removed from our county and put beyond their reach, taking away this vital service for them and their families?

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot prejudge the decision that I will take on reflection, having read the Independent Reconfiguration Panel report, so this morning I cannot give him an answer as to what will happen. However, I can reassure families in Yorkshire, and throughout the country, that where there are safety concerns, we will take them very seriously indeed and investigate them promptly, and where there are difficult reconfiguration debates to be had, we will not duck them, but in all cases, the interests of patients—patient safety and reducing mortality—must be our primary concern.

18. There seems to have been little reliable evidence for the suspension of services at Leeds, but rather for the safe and sustainable review itself. Will the Secretary of State now do what NHS England has so far refused to do to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, despite the recommendation of the health and overview scrutiny committee in Yorkshire, and finally publish all the official e-mails between the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts and the National Specialised Commissioning Team between 2008 and 2013, so that he can finally learn the truth about the review and what has gone so wrong with it? (158883)

I know that NHS England is totally committed to transparency and when I make my final decision on the Safe and Sustainable review, we will publish a lot of information. But all the things that he refers to are subject to normal freedom of information processes, and I am sure that he will pursue those.