health Secretary Andrew Lansley visited Sheffield Children’s Hospital to see first hand its specialist care and the expert staff who deliver it.
The Secretary of State was given a tour of the facility and met staff on the intensive care unit.
He also talked to staff on the child assessment unit - where health workers, police and social services come together to care for vulnerable youngsters - and the Embrace paediatric ambulance, which transports sick babies and children to specialist centres across Yorkshire and the Humber.
The £4 million transport service - the first in the UK - was launched last year and is led by the Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
It provides 24-hour expert clinical advice on the telephone, and can send out a skilled transport team to any of the region’s 23 hospitals within 20 minutes of accepting a call.
After being shown around some of the ambulance’s expert features by its expert staff, Mr Lansley said the facility was “fantastic”.
“A few years ago it became the case that if children required emergency or acute specialist treatment, increasingly they were not being treated in district hospitals but in specialist centres like here in Sheffield,” he said.
“But retrieving the children, especially those in an emergency situation, was taking the staff away from delivering the services.
“The simple, lateral thinking that has put this service in place has dramatically improved that and is allowing children to be treated in the right place, at the right time, where they can get the treatment they need without taking critical care staff away from looking after other youngsters on the unit.”
Mr Lansley said the visits he made to hospitals had been helpful in determining the future of ‘top-up’ fees paid to children’s hospitals like Sheffield in recognition of the specialist and intense care and treatment they provide.
Last November it was reported that the fees in Sheffield could be cut from 78 per cent to 25 per cent, the equivalent of a £4.9m cut.
But the following month, following work with the Department of Health and the Children’s Health Alliance, Mr Lansley announced that the top-up would be reduced to 60 per cent - a cut of £1.5m in Sheffield.
He said: “Six-and-a-half years in opposition has been absolutely central to my understanding that I do not have all the answers.
“There are an awful lot of people whose jobs are to deliver care who do have the best answers.
“It’s about taking the decisions here, not in some office in Whitehall.”
Chris Sharratt, chief executive of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said he was delighted to welcome Mr Lansley.
“We wanted to show him how important children’s services are and how important a hospital like Sheffield is to the whole region,” said Mr Sharratt.