Dismay at swift loss of Ecmo unit at Glenfield Hospital Leicester as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley gives go-ahead
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has given the go-ahead to move a specialist treatment pioneered in Leicester to Birmingham.
His decision that the Ecmo service for children can be moved away from Glenfield Hospital has angered campaigners who are continuing to fight to keep children's heart surgery at the hospital.
Last week, an NHS panel decided that children's heart surgery should end at Glenfield, and at three other hospitals nationally.
It followed a review which aimed to reduce the number of hospitals that provide children's heart surgery in order to concentrate expertise in fewer, larger centres.
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The panel also agreed the life-saving children's Ecmo service should be transferred – a move ratified by Mr Lansley yesterday.
Leicestershire MPs said they were "stunned" by Mr Lansley's backing of the decision so soon after it was announced by the panel – and before they had had a chance to raise their concerns with him.
They are meeting Health Minister Simon Burns on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, said: "Expert clinicians have raised serious concerns about the impact of moving Glenfield's children's Ecmo service.
"They believe it could take years to build the service back up to its current excellent standard, risking children's health and even their survival.
"It is unacceptable that the Health Secretary has signed off the Ecmo decision only a week after the proposals were announced, and without full and proper consideration of these clinical concerns."
Nicky Morgan, the Conservative MP for Loughborough, said: "I am stunned the decision was taken after we had written to the Health Secretary asking to meet to talk about Ecmo."
Ecmo – an acronym for extra corporeal membrane oxygenation – is a treatment in which a patient's blood is oxygenated outside of their body, giving their heart and lungs a chance to recover.
Both adults and children can receive Ecmo at Glenfield.
In a statement, the Department of Health said Mr Lansley had accepted the advice of the NHS panel that children's Ecmo should move to Birmingham.
It said: "Birmingham Children's Hospital is well placed to safely replace the Ecmo services for children currently provided at Glenfield Hospital.
"This decision will mean Birmingham Children's Hospital is not only able to provide but to expand the service, so even more intensive care beds are available for babies and children who need them."
Leslie Hamilton, vice chairman of the steering group which carried out the national review, said: "Glenfield was a trailblazer leading the way with Ecmo, but the review said every children's cardiac centre should be able to provide Ecmo."
Campaigners gathered outside Glenfield Hospital last night in protest at the decision.
Gill Smart, of Leicestershire charity Heart Link, said campaigners wanted people to continue signing an online petition against the panel's decision. It already has more than 34,000 signatures.
To sign the e-petition go to:
See today's More magazine for more on Albert Tansey, born with half-a-heart and being treated at Glenfield.