Campaigners to appeal against closure of Leeds heart unit.

Stunned silence in Ward 12 at Leeds General Infirmary when the announcement was made that children's heart surgery is to be moved to Newcastle.

Stunned silence in Ward 12 at Leeds General Infirmary when the announcement was made that children's heart surgery is to be moved to Newcastle.

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THE Leeds children’s heart unit, that has saved the lives of scores of acutely ill youngsters across South Yorkshire, is to close.

NHS bosses delivered the news that so many families were dreading, after a late meeting in London yesterday.

Despairing mums and dads now face journeys of well over 100 miles to Newcastle, after warning for months that such a move could place intolerable pressure on families. Emma Hawksworth of Wath-upon-Dearne is one parent whose daughter was saved and nurtured by the unit’s talented team. She fears lives will be lost with closure of the unit.”

And Kerry Uttley of Rawmarsh, who raised thousands of pounds for Ward 10 after her daughter Carenza was treated for two holes in her heart, called the move “a travesty”.

But the campaigning Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has vowed to fight on. Director Sharon Cheng said that the panel has ignored co-location and has ignored patient choice.

She added: “We will now appeal to the health minister as he assured us a decision would be made on clinical logic. This has not happened.”

Michael Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, has campaigned strongly for the Leeds unit and said: “This is bitterly disappointing news. The fantastic Leeds Children’s Heart Unit had an overwhelmingly strong case to stay open, but the odds were stacked against Leeds from the outset due to how the options in the consultation were initially drawn up.

“I understand there may still be scope for local authorities to appeal against the result and take it to Ministers in the Department of Health. I will be working with the campaign team in the coming days to see what the next steps should be. We will continue to fight on.”

The Leeds unit serves 14.2 million people from across Yorkshire who can all access the unit in under two hours. More than 600,000 people signed a petition to keep it open, stating that for many critically ill tots, travel time has proved to be a vital factor in their survival.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, insisted the needs of children have been at the heart of the review, with the responses to a full public consultation taken in to account.

But Sharon Cheng said the whole thing had been just a “rubber stamping exercise.”