Delay to heart review changes could have a devastating effect

Charity fundraiser Ivan Hollingsworth with his wife Nadine and son Seb.
Charity fundraiser Ivan Hollingsworth with his wife Nadine and son Seb.

A FATHER whose son was saved thanks to vital heart surgery fears other parents might not be so lucky due to a High Court ruling.

Ivan Hollingsworth, from Monkseaton, has campaigned for the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital to remain open, as it has cared for his son Seb.

Ivan, who last year became a trustee for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), said the decision today is devastating for the families of heart children across the country, as the delay could cost lives.

The Safe and Sustainable Review was ordered to look at changes to the way children’s heart surgery is provided, with a view to creating specialist centres of excellence.

On July 4, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) agreed on a prefered option which would end children’s heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, and make Newcastle the centre of excellence for the north.

But in October, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review, and last week campaigners in Leeds won the High Court challenge over proposed changes to children’s heart surgery services.

Ivan said: “The decision by the judge to order a review into the decision making process will delay a change that is already overdue.

“There is a very real chance that the delay could mean children die.

“The review is a decision that has to be made because children are dying and the system is creaking.

“Leeds are fighting a turf war. They have campaigned on a huge scale, but they are missing telling people that the reason of this review is to provide a greater level of security for children across the country.

“I think they have lost sight of what this is about.

“When someone comes at you, you either run away or stand tall, and I will not let the Freeman lose it.

“My responsibility is to Seb, but when he asks what I did to help, I want to be able to say I did the right thing and I helped all the children, not just him.

“It is about all children with heart defects being cared for.

“There is a real fear that this could potentially take everything back to square one.”

The Save our Surgery campaign group stated the scoring methods used to measure each hospital were not disclosed before the decision was reached, which they claimed was unfair.

The judge accepted their argument, but said the Freeman Hospital was “the only unit in the country to provide all cardiac care from conception, through birth, childhood and adulthood”, and added that it “is one of only two children’s cardiac pulmonary transplant units in the UK”, and among the “top five centres in the world, within this field and has an international reputation.”

A statement from the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust was delighted that the judge recognised the quality and uniqueness of our children’s heart surgery service.

“We are disappointed that the implementation of the review will be further delayed by this litigation.

“However we remain confident that the original decision will in due course be upheld and the Freeman Hospital will be one of the designated centres providing specialist children’s cardiac surgery, for which our performance and very high quality is recognised internationally.

“Newcastle Hospitals gives reassurance that our first and foremost consideration will remain the interests of children and their families under our care and we will not allow delays in the review process to compromise the quality of our excellent service.”

There will be a further hearing at the High Court on March 27.