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Health chiefs to push on with children's heart unit reforms
6:24pm Friday 8th March 2013 in News
HEALTH BOSSES are determined to press ahead with reforming children's heart services despite a ruling that has put the future of Southampton's unit in doubt once again.
Yesterday a High Court judge ruled that the review which led to decision to save children's heart surgery in Southampton was “unfair and procedurally flawed”.
This could mean that doctors and families of patients, who fought so hard to save the city's unit, will be forced to do it all again if the judge decides later this month that the whole consultation is repeated.
But whatever the outcome, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPT), which made the controversial decision, vowed to plough ahead with their plans, adding that they would be strongly considering an appeal.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the JCPT, said: “The pressing need to reform children's heart services is long overdue and experts have cautioned that further delay in achieving the necessary change would be a major setback in improving outcomes for children with heart disease.”
It comes less than a year after the city's world-class unit was saved from the axe, after the Daily Echo's Have a Heart campaign collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition urging health bosses to save the unit.
Campaigners included mum Deb Banyard, whose seven-year-old daughter Cora is treated at Southampton, who said the uncertainly was “putting children's lives at risk” while money that should be being spent on improvement and research was being spent “lining lawyers' pockets.”
The cost to the NHS of fighting the legal challenges alone is thought to have topped £2m.
She added: “It has now got beyond ridiculous. I am so angry I cannot tell you.
'Waste of time'
“No one was ever going to buy into this and accept their unit would have to close, and now the process has just turned into an exercise in finger pointing and point scoring.
“I feel like my daughter is no longer important in all of this. They need to find solutions that perhaps do not involve the closure of any units as this will just go on and on.”
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said it was time the Department of Health started “banging heads together” over the reforms so that a solution could be reached.
He said: “We cannot continue to have this issue bouncing around in the courts forever.
“Hospitals cannot be allowed to pursue their own narrow interests at the expense of the NHS as a whole.”
That was echoed by Emma West, mum of two-year-old Lewis, who is also treated at Southampton.
She said: “This needs to be sorted out once and for all but if we have to do it all again, we will.
“Having said that I think they need to think about whether they should close any of the units, as problems with the decision are always going to be found.
“I think the review was a waste of time and money.”