We’ll fight on for children’s heart unit, campaigners vow

Helen Barraclough, 20, lost her son, Jack Barraclough at 16 months old, after he was born with a heart defect.'Toegether with her mum, Denise Parker, they will be raising money for the charity, Children's Heart Fund.
Helen Barraclough, 20, lost her son, Jack Barraclough at 16 months old, after he was born with a heart defect.'Toegether with her mum, Denise Parker, they will be raising money for the charity, Children's Heart Fund.
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CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight on despite suffering a major blow in their battle to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds.

Less than 10 per cent of the 75,000 people who responded to a national consultation over the controversial NHS shake-up voted for the option that would keep the unit at Leeds General Infirmary open.

Bobbie-Jay Johnson with 12-week-old son Caleb who benefitted from the childrens heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary, which is under threat of closure

Bobbie-Jay Johnson with 12-week-old son Caleb who benefitted from the childrens heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary, which is under threat of closure

The most popular of the four proposed options would mean parents of poorly Calderdale children having to travel to Newcastle for life-saving treatment.

Denise Parker, of Woodside Road in Boothtown, Halifax, whose grandson Jack Barraclough was treated at the Leeds unit last year, said the idea was “disgusting”.

Staff there fought to save him but he sadly died aged 16 months in mum Helen Barraclough’s arms.

She said: “For people here in Yorkshire it is disgusting that they are even considering letting it go that far away. It is hard enough as it is when you have a baby or a small child that ill.

“They were absolutely brilliant with us at the LGI. I really can’t say how much they helped us and how much they did for Jack – it just didn’t turn out well.”

A glimmer of hope is that the Save Our Surgery (SOS) petition in support of the LGI unit was bigger than any across the country.

Nearly 450,000 people had signed it when the consultation closed in July and 150,000 more signatures have been added since. Among them is Barkisland mum Bobbie-Jay Johnson, whose son Caleb had life-saving surgery at the unit.

Ms Parker, 55, urged the Government to take note.

“It’s in the hands of MPs and I don’t know whether they will take notice of people like us, but they should.”

A final decision will not be made until the end of the year, but the consultation results will be taken into consideration.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the committee that will make the decision, said it was not a ‘done deal’.

“I give a commitment to the people of Yorkshire that it’s not just the outcome of the consultation that I and the committee will take into account.”

Sharon Cheng, of the SOS campaign, said: “We still believe this region can’t be without this service. We are still fighting strong.”

l Jack’s family are holding a fund-raising night for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at the Belgrave Social Club, Claremount Road, Halifax, from 7pm tomorrow.