Legal bid to save Leeds child heart surgery will go ahead

Protesters in Leeds A demonstration was held in Leeds in July by people opposed to the decision

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A judge has dismissed a bid to postpone a legal challenge against a decision to end child heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

The Save Our Surgery (SOS) group wanted to put its call for a judicial review on hold, pending the results of a review ordered by the health secretary.

But a judge at the High Court said the challenge should be expedited.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the panel which made the NHS decision, said the group's "delaying tactics have failed".

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) decided care should be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards and chose units at Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton and two London centres.

That would lead to operations ending at the unit in Leeds, as well at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital and London's Royal Brompton.

'Strange request'

SOS applied for a judicial review in October, arguing the consultation process was unfair.

But lawyers for the group asked Judge Mackie QC to delay their court application in the light of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's decision last month to order a full review of the JCPCT recommendations by the Independent Review Panel (IRP).

The panel reports at the end of February.

Judge Mackie dismissed the SOS application for a stay and instead said its challenge should be expedited and heard over two days before 15 February, weeks before the IRP reports to Mr Hunt.

Sir Neil said: "Save our Surgery Ltd brought a strange request to the court - to delay its own judicial review.

"This would have significantly delayed long overdue improvements to children's heart services for months.

"If the judicial review needs to be heard, we have always maintained that it should be heard as soon as possible."

Sharon Cheng of SOS said: "Given today's events we understand that the health secretary agrees that there is overlap between our case and his referral to the IRP, and the Court would therefore like the case to proceed. We feel that this is a positive step forward, especially as we now have a timescale for the hearing.

"To be clear, our request for a pause in proceedings would have had no significant impact on the timescales for the implementation of the Safe & Sustainable review, if this goes ahead."

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