A LEGAL challenge that threatens to overturn the decision to keep children’s heart surgery in Southampton gets under way today.
The judicial review, which has been launched by campaigners fighting the closure of paediatric cardiac surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, begins this morning at the High Court in London.
If the Save Our Surgery (SOS) group wins its appeal, the decision made by health bosses in July 2012 to save children’s heart surgery at Southampton General Hospital could be under threat.
The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPT) decided that care should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites, in a bid to improve standards.
It meant that units in Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton and two London centres were given the green light to continue with children’s heart surgery.
It followed the Daily Echo’s Have a Heart campaign, which saw 250,000 people sign a petition to save Southampton’s world-renowned unit, which was delivered to Downing Street.
The controversial decision saw cardiac surgery axed at Leeds General Infirmary, as well as two other units at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital and London’s Royal Brompton.
Children in the Leeds area now face travelling to Newcastle or Liverpool for cardiac treatment.
SOS claim that the consultation process was unfair and legally flawed.
If the campaigners win their action, it could once again call the future of heart surgery in Southampton into question if a fresh consultation is ordered.
Sharon Cheng, from SOS, said: “Taking legal action has always been our last resort option, pursued only after all other appeals to review the decision were rejected by the JCPCT.
“At the end of the day, this is about protecting the lives of children and this is why we believe that the challenges to NHS officials should be heard.”
The JCPCT has already won one judicial review launched by the Royal Brompton before the decision was taken in July.
Sam Prior, whose nine-year-old son Aaron underwent treatment in Southampton after being born with a serious heart defect, said: “I’m quite confident that this won’t put our unit under threat again.
“We have given enough evidence and statistics to back up why we were voted as the second best unit in the country. The results were revealed last July but there’s a lack of investment at the moment because of all this uncertainty.
“Children are still being treated in centres that were going to be stopped from doing surgery. Being treated in these units that aren’t as up to speed as others like Southampton potentially means children’s lives are being put at risk.”