South Yorkshire families despair over closure of children’s heart unit

Difficult: 'Gutted' mum Amy Brocklebank with her baby son Louis.
Difficult: 'Gutted' mum Amy Brocklebank with her baby son Louis.
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PARENTS of poorly youngsters in South Yorkshire have reacted with despair after NHS bosses decided to close 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 Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Families will have to travel 140 miles to Newcastle instead.

Mum Amy Brocklebank, aged 25, of Stannington, Sheffield, has been a regular visitor to Leeds since her little boy Louis, now 15 months, was diagnosed with two holes in his heart.

She said: “We are gutted. It looks like we are going to have to go to Newcastle, which is a hell of a long way.”

Amy, who works as a care support worker, is also worried about the impact on daughter Jody, four. “Jody found the separation difficult when we were in Leeds - Newcastle is much further.”

Aimee Mayers, 26, is mum to seven-month-old Alexia Nicholls, whose life was saved in Leeds after she nearly died from a rare heart defect.

Leeds surgeons carried out a delicate 10-hour procedure to save her life.

Aimee, who lives in Woodseats with husband Brett, 30, said: “This decision is so disappointing. It’s clear they always wanted to close Leeds but they’ve dragged it on and on, which is upsetting for everyone who has campaigned so hard to keep it open.”

Cassie Symms, 29, from Dinnington, has also been a regular visitor to Leeds, with son Zander who will turn two 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.”

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

Heart units at The Royal Brompton in London and Leicester Hospital will also be closed.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “This is a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for which will enable the NHS to improve care for children with congenital heart disease.

“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.

“Parents, patients and clinicians told us consistently during consultation that quality of care should be the most important factor, so hospitals’ ability to meet the new national quality standards was foremost in our minds when coming to this decision.”