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Leeds heart surgery campaigners win legal challenge

Campaigners trying to keep child heart surgery in Leeds have won a key legal challenge to keep the facility open.Leeds heart surgery campaigners win legal challengeThe High Court has ruled the consultation over changes to children’s heart surgery in England and Wales was flawed.

Legal action was brought by campaigners trying to save operations at Leeds General Infirmary but the ruling could affect other units.

The team behind the NHS review said quashing its plans would be unfair.

The High Court judge backed claims by The Save our Surgery group (SOS) that the consultation process was unfair and legally flawed.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) decided child heart surgery should also end at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital and London’s Royal Brompton so care could be concentrated at fewer sites to improve standards.

The High Court ruling could also affect the future of surgery at those units.

The verdict over child heart surgery is just the latest twist in a long-running fight over the future of this complex area of care.

The debate has been raging for over a decade and has already been subject to legal challenges – a perfect illustration of why changing the NHS remains an incredibly tricky task.

The medical profession is united in the belief that expert care needs to be done at fewer sites.

Child heart surgery is the prime example of that – it is one of the most complex procedures undertaken by the NHS.

To provide a uniformly high quality and safe service operations in such fields need to be concentrated, it has been argued. Evidence shows this helps doctors improve skills and share expertise.

But the push for change is not just confined to child heart surgery. Similar debates are going on over everything from A&E units to stroke care as the problem is that change comes at a price: the loss of services from much loved local hospitals.

The strength of feeling in Leeds – and in other places that face losing services for that matter – is testament to that.

These are difficult decisions and with money getting ever tighter in the health service expect more disputes in the future.

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