Silent vigil in Parliament Square held in support of Glenfield Hospital children's heart unit
MPs and campaigners took part in a silent vigil in Parliament Square yesterday to show their support for Glenfield Hospital children's heart unit.
More than 150 people held banners, placards and posters as they stood in silence with politicians including Leicestershire MPs Liz Kendall and Keith Vaz, both Labour, and Conservative Nicky Morgan.
They also popped 50 red balloons to signify the prediction by Swedish Ecmo expert Dr Kenneth Palmer that the transfer of the specialist unit could cost the lives of 50 children.
Organiser Robyn Lotto, 40, of Stoneygate, Leicester, said: "We want to remind Jeremy Hunt that he is the last line of decision making and it's down to him to keep this vital service open."
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Ms Kendall, Leicester West MP, said: "It was an honour to join the demonstration.
"The turn-out was fantastic, and I'm very grateful to everyone who came to Westminster to help raise awareness of the potentially grave consequences of moving children's heart and Ecmo services from Leicester to Birmingham."
Mr Hunt has referred the decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
The panel has been asked to provide an initial review by Friday.
Loughborough MP Mrs Morgan said: "I have discussed this with both the new Secretary of State for Health and the new health minister, Anna Soubry, in the past week.
"I continue to make the argument this move should not happen."
If the Glenfield centre closes, children born with heart defects would have to travel to Birmingham for surgery.
The hospital's specialist Ecmo machine, which does the work of a patient's heart and lungs when they are seriously ill, is also due to move.
Leicester East MP Mr Vaz said: "The decision to move children's heart surgery from Glenfield, especially the pioneering Ecmo service, will impact heavily on children's care services in Leicester."
Charnwood MP Stephen Dorrell said: "The protest draws the attention of NHS management to the need to be clear about the factual basis of the important decisions it takes – and then explain them to the community.
"Most understand and accept the need for change. All they ask is that change is based on evidence and is explained to those most closely affected."
Leslie Hamilton, deputy chairman of the Safe and Sustainable steering group, which recommended Glenfield should close, said: "I recognise people have shown huge loyalty to the hospital.
"However, pooling surgical expertise means the clinical community can work together, develop new techniques and deliver improved care to keep more children with complex heart conditions alive.
"The decision will improve clinical outcomes and save more children's lives."