CHILDREN from Selby district are amongst hundreds across Yorkshire who now face long journeys cross country for life-saving heart operations after NHS chiefs dramatically axed surgery in the region.
Youngsters and their families will now be expected to travel to Newcastle for vital surgery under the changes after the news broke that the specialist unit at Leeds General Infirmary was amongst those scheduled for closure.
NHS officials, who narrowly rejected an alternative option proposed by campaigners from Yorkshire which would have seen surgery retained in Leeds, have hailed the decision to cut the number of heart surgery units across the country from ten to seven as a ‘landmark’ which would improve the quality of care.
But families, who have ben involved in a year long fight to save the Leeds unit, say that the closure will be hugely problematic.
One of those affected is three-year-old Vaughn Pearce-Storm from Hemingbrough, who suffers from a hole in the heart and an interrupted aortic arch – a condition that affects just three children in a million.
Brave little Vaughn has already undergone three life saving operations at LGI, and mum Rebecca says that arranging for treatment in the north east is going to make things extremely difficult for the family.
She told the Selby Times: “We’re extremely disappointed, though it is something of a relief to know what’s finally happening after so long I suppose.
“It was wonderful to have a specialist unit so close – that was very reassuring in case of an emergency but now we’ll have to come to terms with the practicalities of travelling a very long way.
“We’re faced with the reality now of having to travel an extra two or three hours if there’s an emergency – and that could cost Vaughn his life.
“Even in cases of scheduled surgery it will mean that his dad and his sister won’t be able to be there to support him and, at his age, that means a great deal.
“The other thing that worries me is that Vuughn’s surgery has caused him stomach problems – at Leeds that was dealt with immediately, as all the children’s services were under one roof, but in Newcastle it will mean transferring to a different hospital. It is very disappointing.”
Opponents have pledged to refer the decision to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in what will be seen as an important test for ministers ahead of other major reconfigurations of NHS care.
Sharon Cheng, director of the Leeds-based Children’s Heart Surgery Fund charity, said patients’ views had been ignored.
She warned Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital would not reach a target of carrying out a minimum 400 operations a year which could force it to close in future leaving a huge area in the North without any provision. We need to look at how they have reached this decision which gives cause for grave concern,” she said.
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Weather for Selby
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West