Tears as Leicester's Glenfield Hospital children's heart unit is axed
Parents and staff broke down in tears as it was announced that children's heart surgery at Glenfield Hospital will be stopped.
A national review body yesterday ruled that the number of hospitals carrying out heart surgery on children in England should be cut from 11 to seven – and that Glenfield would not to be one of those to remain.
It means children with heart defects will have to travel to Birmingham for operations, although it is not yet clear when services will be moved.
Campaigners fighting to keep children's heart surgery in Leicester wept as they watched a live broadcast of the meeting of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which made the final decision.
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Dr Frances Bu'Lock, a consultant cardiologist at Leicester's hospitals, said: "This decision is catastrophic. Birmingham won't have the capacity to take extra cases for another five to 10 years – there just isn't the space."
Dr Sanjiv Nichani, a consultant paediatrician, said: "We are absolutely devastated and it is going to be difficult to keep our service going here.
"But we to have to carry on at the moment for the children and their families."
Emergency meetings were being called at Leicester's hospitals today to discuss what will happen next.
The decision to stop children's heart surgery at Glenfield throws into doubt the future of the pioneering Ecmo – extra corporeal membrane oxygenation – treatment unit, which is used to save children and adults by oxygenating blood outside the body, giving the patient's heart and lungs the chance to recover.
There are also questions about the future of heart surgery for adults at Glenfield.
A national review is in its early stages.
Consultant children's heart surgeon Giles Peek said: "Everyone is very upset.
"We are very disappointed that the JCPCT does not seem to have listened to the six out of 10 people who supported us in the public consultation and wanted to see children's heart surgery continue at Glenfield.
"We are going to sit down as a team and work out what we can do next.
"It was a gruelling afternoon but at the moment we are still open for Ecmo and will still be here for our patients."
At the start of the day, campaigners, parents and staff who had gathered at Glenfield to watch the meeting were upbeat.
The JCPCT published six new options listing groups of hospitals which would become designated surgical centres and Glenfield was named in five of these.
However, as the afternoon wore on, it became clear from information presented at the meeting that two options were in the frame for serious considerations, neither featuring Glenfield.
Committee members eventually agreed on the option B group of hospitals – which scored highest in criteria including travelling times, quality and the ability to deliver and to sustain the service.
Leicester West MP Liz Kendall, who hugged staff and parents as the news emerged, said she would spend the next few days at Glenfield talking to hospital staff and campaigners.
She said: "The decision comes as terrible shock to all the patients, families and staff at Glenfield.
"The doctors, nurses, support staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to provide care for some of the most vulnerable children in society and have run a brilliant campaign to keep children's heart surgery here in Leicester.
"I know people have a lot of questions about how and why this decision was reached, which need to be properly answered.
"For now, the most important thing is to focus on the patients who are being treated at Glenfield.
"As the local MP, I will always do everything I can to support Glenfield and to ensure my constituents get the very best standards of care."