LGI heart story

Children’s heart surgery has been suspended at Leeds General Infirmary in a move which has raised further question marks over the future of paediatric cardiac services in England.

The hospital has previously been embroiled in controversy over allegations that the hospital was refusing to refer some seriously ill children to another centre for life-saving surgery, instead offering only palliative care. The health watchdog the Care Quality Commission is looking into the claims, which the hospital trust denies.

There were also concerns about the number of deaths at the hospital following surgery, which has been refuted by the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Questions have also been raised over the timing of the decision, which came a day after a High Court ruling quashed plans to close a children’s unit.

Maggie Boyle, chief executive of the trust, said: “Following discussions earlier today with senior representatives from NHS England and the Care Quality Commission the trust has agreed to carry out an internal review, independently validated and supported by external experts.

“This will look at all aspects of congenital cardiac surgery for children undertaken at the unit in Leeds.

“We have taken the decision to temporarily pause children’s congenital cardiac surgery and associated interventions while this review is conducted, a process we would aim to complete in around three weeks.

“We apologise to parents and families who will be affected during this time, and can assure them we always put the safety of our patients first.” On Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Bruce Keogh defended his decision to suspend heart surgery and admitted that the timing looked “suspicious”.

He said: “On Tuesday, I had two phone calls which I found disturbing, both from highly respected temperate surgeons who commenced the conversations by saying they had to speak out.”

One raised concerns about the referrals process at the hospital and the other spoke to him about staffing levels

He added: “I couldn’t do nothing. I was really disturbed about the timing of this. I couldn’t sit back just because the timing was inconvenient, awkward or would look suspicious, as it does.”

The leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, said he was “shocked at the timing of today’s events”.

Children who would have been treated in Leeds will be sent to other hospitals around England.

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