Sheffield parents’ joy over heart unit victory

Amy Brocklebank with baby Louis
Amy Brocklebank with baby Louis
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PARENTS from Sheffield are celebrating after protesters won a High Court challenge against plans to axe the county’s nearest children’s heart unit, writes Richard Blackledge.

The protest group Save Our Surgery brought the case against the NHS Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, claiming the consultation over plans to remove children’s heart surgery services from Leeds was ‘unlawful’.

Judge Mrs Justice Davies, sitting at the High Court in London, allowed the appeal, and will announce crucial decisions about what happens next later this month.

Mum Amy Brocklebank, aged 25, from Stannington, said she felt ‘absolutely ecstatic’ following the decision.

She has been a regular visitor to Leeds since her little boy, Louis, one, was diagnosed with two holes in his heart.

She said: “I’m hoping they take a complete, fresh look at it again and start at the beginning. A heart unit in Leeds means everything to us.

“Louis stops breathing on a regular basis – it takes 30 or 40 minutes to get to Leeds, it would be two hours if he had to get to Newcastle.

“That’s his life you’re playing with.”

Alison Ball, from Greenhill, whose 14-year-old daughter Amy has undergone open heart surgery twice, said the ruling was ‘fantastic news’.

“It’s a massive victory for all the patients and the clinicians and especially the children who have been fighting for so long,” she said.

“I hope the outcome is that they carry out a proper consultation, taking the views of parents and children into account.

“I know it doesn’t necessarily mean Leeds will stay open, and obviously parents are happy to travel as far as they need for their children to get the right care, but this is such a big step.

“It’s vital we have something near to South Yorkshire.”

Cassie Symms, aged 29, from Dinnington, also welcomed the news.

Her son Zander, two, has a leaking heart valve, and Cassie said she would be ‘devastated’ if the Leeds unit closed.

Sharon Cheng, from Save Our Surgery, said campaigners were ‘pleased and relieved’, and the ruling proved the consultation was merely a ‘rubber-stamping exercise’.

But Sir Neil McKay, chair of the joint committee, said he was ‘very disappointed’ and an appeal would be ‘strongly considered’.

In court, Save Our Surgery argued the consultation was flawed as Leeds General Infirmary was not shown a set of scores which could have helped it make a better case for survival.

* What do you think about the High Court decision? Leave a comment below or email: letters@thestar.co.uk.