‘Delight’ at heart surgery court win

A consultation over controversial plans to cut the number of children’s heart surgery centres has been deemed unlawful.

A High Court judge has ruled the exercise - which threatens the future of the Leeds General Infirmary centre - was “unlawful and must therefore be quashed”. It comes after London’s Royal Brompton Hospital - another under-threat centre - won its High Court bid to seek a judicial review into the constulation by the Joint Committee of the Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which now plans to appeal.

Bosses at Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, which is campaigning to save the LGI’s centre, said they were “delighted” with the ruling but the future still remains uncertain. A spokeswoman said: “The case to retain services at the LGI has never been stronger as we believe the consultation process has been fundamentally flawed and full of inaccuracies. This decision only hardens our resolve to safeguard the life saving services in Leeds.”

Reacting to the ruling by Sir Neil McKay, Chair of the JCPCT, said: “I am disappointed that the Judge decided to quash the consultation on an obscure technical point that had no material bearing on the JCPCT’s choice of consultation options. We respectfully intend to appeal the Judge’s decision based on his misunderstanding of the review process.

“I am very sorry for the delay that this ruling may bring to the process of review given the continued anxiety and frustration amongst parents of children with congenital heart disease across the country and NHS staff working in the surgical centres. I would like to provide an absolute reassurance that the work of the JCPCT will continue and that a final decision on the future configuration of services will be made in the Spring of 2012.

“I am, however, pleased that the Judge rejected most of the grounds on which the RBH based their claim. Our responses to the Judge’s verdict are set out below and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how Safe and Sustainable will continue the process for reaching a decision in 2012.”