Dismay in Doncaster at decision to shut heart unit

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PARENTS of poorly youngsters in Doncaster have reacted with despair after NHS bosses decided to close down Yorkshire’s only children’s heart unit.

At a meeting in London late last night NHS bosses decided to shut the unit in Leeds, used by hundreds of families in South Yorkshire.

Families will now have to travel the 115 miles to Newcastle.

Mum Cheryl Freestone, aged 33, of Cantley, has been a regular visitor to Leeds since her little girl Libby, four, was diagnosed with two holes in her heart.

Last summer Libby underwent major open heart surgery at the unit, in a delicate five-hour procedure.

Cheryl, married to John, 34, and also mum to two-year-old Jasmine, said: “I’m devastated.

“It seems ridiculous to close a great facility where you have all those great doctors.

“Now, if Libby has to have follow-up care, we will have to go all that way.

“It’s scary - you have to get used to a new hospital, new surroundings.

“What will happen to our outpatient appointments? At the moment we have them in Doncaster but the doctors come from Leeds to do them.”

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review. Before making our decision, we carefully considered the responses to public consultation and all the available evidence and advice. ”

But Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “This was a rubber stamping exercise. They have ignored patient choice.”

Mum Cassie Symms, 29, from Dinnington, Rotherham, has also been a regular visitor to Leeds, with son Zander who will celebrate his second birthday this month.

Zander has a leaking heart valve and will probably need more surgery.

She said: “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t want to go to Newcastle.”