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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Standing up for the children’s heart unit in Leeds

January 7, 2013

Once again, Julian speaks in a parliamentary debate in order to save the children’s heart unit in Leeds.

With the future of the Leeds unit at risk, Julian once again spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the issue. In his speech, Julian urged Ministers to step in and save the unit after real concerns emerged that the decision-making process into heart units was flawed. A full copy of Julian’s speech can be viewed below:-

 

‘It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend Stuart Andrew on securing this important debate. He has been a champion of the children’s heart unit in Leeds, and I know that the staff, and, most importantly, the young patients, appreciate all that he does to lead the campaign in Westminster to save it from closure. It is a testament to the campaign that so many hon. Members from across the House are here to support it.

The debate over the Safe and Sustainable review has been going on for months. At each stage I have openly supported the need for the review. We must always strive to improve clinical standards in the health service. That is right; and it is right that the responsibility for treating children’s heart problems should be transferred to units that can offer the outstanding treatment that all affected children and their families deserve. The families of those children would not want anything else. I am a parent and understand it completely.

Indeed, my support for the Leeds children’s heart unit is based not simply on close geographical links to my constituency or the wider region that it serves; it is based on the fact that the unit offers superb clinical outcomes for young patients. Indeed, as other hon. Members have mentioned, it scores higher on the JCPCT’s core clinical standards than the preferred option for the north-east. Core clinical standards should be combined with core statistics from the local area, too. More than 600,000 people havesigned a local petition demanding that the Leeds unit should remain open. Leeds serves a population of 5.5 million, and 14 million are within two hours of the city. That is a catchment area far larger than those of other units.

Throughout this saga I have been reluctant to compare the Leeds unit directly with others, in particular Newcastle’s. My intention is not to criticise the Newcastle unit, which has also carried out great work, saving many young lives over a number of years. Rather, my belief continues to be that the Leeds unit has always had the strengths to merit its survival without such comparisons. Put simply, its own case is strong enough. That is my message to the Minister today, and it was also put eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey.

The single biggest failing in the consultation has been the flawed decision-making process of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, from the lack of weight given to transport and travel times, and the population that centres such as Leeds serve, to the true co-location of services. There has also been a lack of clarity over the terms of the review, and the failure of the JCPCT to release the information and evidence behind its decision is only adding to the controversy and suspicion. Without being able to break down the scores awarded to each children’s heart surgery unit by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy’s assessment panel, the decision-making process lacks basic transparency and scrutiny.

Throughout York there exists huge public interest in this ongoing and disruptive issue. I am particularly concerned for the families of affected children in York who now face the problem of having to travel to other areas for treatment—I stress “other areas”. The Minister must be under no illusion that the families and children displaced to Newcastle if Leeds closes will not automatically head north. They will disperse to centres throughout the country, and we must not lose sight of that.

In conclusion, the Save our Surgery campaign has suggested a balanced solution to the current dispute, as set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey. It suggests that the decision should be implemented in full throughout the country, but delayed in the north-east until April 2014. That window of opportunity could then be used to clarify the figures and findings of the JCPCT, allowing both affected units to demonstrate their capacity and capability on a level playing field.

I am delighted that since the election, the Government have worked to make health services more representative and more responsive to local people. I urge the Minister to continue that fine work by listening to the concerns of patients and residents in Yorkshire and taking on board and responding positively to the Save our Surgery campaign to save the children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds from an unjust and ill-informed closure.’