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Children’s heart operations at Leeds General Infirmary have been suspended because of an ‘unexpectedly high mortality rate’.

NHS bosses have closed the department, which caters for children from South Yorkshire, after figures revealed too many patients were dying.

They are currently conducting an internal review of hospital data after auditors spotted the mortality rate was higher than expected.

The review will also look into a number of claims about patient outcomes in the unit.

The suspension comes after a decision last Wednesday by a High Court judge to keep heart surgery at the LGI.

The department had been earmarked for closure by the NHS in order to concentrate heart surgery at a smaller number of bigger centres.

Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, said it was ‘a highly responsible precautionary step’.

Sharon Cheng, from Save Our Surgery, the group which is co-ordinating the fight to keep children’s heart surgery continuing at the Leeds hospital, said: “We are mystified.

“We don’t know of anything that could justify this step.”