Fight lost to keep open children’s heart unit

Zander Symms, 13 months, at his home in Dinnington who has undergone operations for numerous heart problems. Pictured with mum Cassie
Zander Symms, 13 months, at his home in Dinnington who has undergone operations for numerous heart problems. Pictured with mum Cassie

A DINNINGTON mum has been left ‘heartbroken’ after NHS bosses decided to close Yorkshire’s only children’s heart unit.

At a meeting in London on Wednesday evening NHS bosses decided to close the unit in Leeds, which is used by hundreds of families across the region.

Cassie Symms, 29, has been a regular visitor to the unit at Leeds General Infirmary with her son Zander, who was born with a hole in his heart and had life saving surgery there.

Cassie, of Clarence Street, Dinnington said: “I’m totally guttered, heartbroken. I don’t know what we will do next.”

“I don’t want to go to Newcastle.”

Zander, who will soon turn two, has suffered complications since his operation and has a leaking heart valve and will probably need more surgery.

Cassie still visits the unit every few months with him for check-ups and treatment.

Cassie and her family have been busy raising money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, based at the unit.

She’s done a skydive with sister Vickie Poskitt and organised a Zumbathon, while her daughter Avril, four, took part in a sponsored fun run.

When the campaign began to save the unit, Cassie told the Dinnington Guardian: “It can be bad enough just getting to Leeds, but we can get there and back in a day. But to have to travel all the way to Liverpool or Newcastle would be awful.”

NHS bosses decided the best option for future heart surgery provision would contain two centres in London and one each in Southampton, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Announcing the decision Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “This is a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for which will enable the NHS to improve care for children with congenital heart disease.”

“The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review. We only took the decision today after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land. Before making our decision, we carefully considered the responses to public consultation and all the available evidence and advice.”

“Parents, patients and clinicians told us consistently during consultation that quality of care should be the most important factor, so hospitals’ ability to meet the new national quality standards was foremost in our minds when coming to this decision.”

“We recognise these are difficult decisions to make, and that some people will be disappointed to lose their nearest surgical centre. However, we strongly believe our decision is in the best interests of all children and will ensure services are safe and sustainable for the future.”

Following the decision, Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “Today was a rubber stamping exercise. The panel has listened to clinicians and doctors and ultimately decided ‘doctors know best’.”

“Clinical logic has not been taken into consideration. They have ignored co-location. They have ignored patient choice.

“We will now appeal to the health minister as he assured us a decision would be made on clinical logic.”

“This has not happened today.”