Leicester's Glenfield Hospital: What next for child heart patients?

Glenfield Hospital Image copyright PA
Image caption Campaigners have fought for years to save the specialist heart unit at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital

Following the revelations that children's heart surgery will stop at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, BBC News has spoken to parents of children who will be affected.

Danielle Westerman's two-year-old son Declan has had two open-heart operations and is due to have another next year.

Ms Westerman, from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, says she already has trouble getting to Leicester as neither she or her partner can drive and rely on a lift from her elderly grandfather.

She said: "Where would we have to go now? How would we even get there?

"Glenfield is only an hour away from me, this is going to be so difficult. We struggled as it was."

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Image copyright Danielle Westerman
Image caption Danielle Westerman's son Declan has had two heart operations

NHS England has told three units - in Leicester, Manchester and London - to stop complex surgery on patients born with congenital heart problems by April 2017.

The announcement comes after attempts to reorganise services had to be abandoned three years ago following legal challenges by local campaigners and the hospitals themselves.

Ashleigh Woods' six-year-old son Jack has had open-heart surgery four times at Glenfield.

Ms Woods, from Melton Mowbray, said: "We nearly lost him two years ago and he will need a heart transplant eventually.

"This has come as a massive shock. Where do we go? Birmingham is such a long way to go, it's risking your child's life.

"Will they pay travel costs? At Glenfield you can stay over.

"It's daunting to think what will happen. It will have a massive impact on us."

Image copyright Ashleigh Woods
Image caption Ashleigh Woods (left) said the news was a massive shock

Sylv Hogan's son 12-year-old son Alex was was born with a congenital heart defect.

She said Alex had "infection after infection" from birth and in March 2005 he took a turn for the worse and was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

"He was too poorly to be moved to Glenfield so we held our breath and waited," she said.

"Doctors from the heart unit came over every day to check on Alex until he was stable enough to move.

"I'm 100% sure that he would not be here today [without their help].

"[Stopping children's heart surgery at Glenfield] is not sad, it's criminal."

Image copyright Sylv Hogan
Image caption Alex Hogan was saved by Glenfield specialists, his mother says

Card Ward, from Leicestershire, said his one-year-old son George has undergone two open-heart surgeries at Glenfield and is fortunate to be alive.

He said: "We feel absolutely mortified about the recent news, I feel sick to the stomach.

"Glenfield became a second home for us. Me and my partner were so fortunate to be able to commute the 20-minute drive, change shifts to stay with George and the other look after our other son at home after school.

"I feel so sad for Leicestershire and surrounding areas, in fact the whole country, as we met children who had been airlifted from hundreds of miles away to receive the special care and expertise."

Image copyright Carl Ward
Image caption Carl Ward said Glenfield was like a second home for his son George (above)

Ranjit Singh Nagra, from Leicester, said on Facebook: "What a disgrace, my daughter had a heart surgery at Glenfield hospital and I feel sorry for the children and parents who will have to travel miles for surgery."

Hayley Spencer told the BBC the NHS England decision was "terrible news".

"My little boy River had open-heart surgery in October for tetralogy of Fallot [heart defect]," she said.

"What happens if he needs more surgery? Where will we go? Glenfield is so handy for us living in Derby."

Sharon Virgin, from Leicester, said: "My daughter needs open-heart surgery in a few months and she is devastated.

"They are not thinking how this will affect the children who basically live at the hospital. They should be ashamed of themselves."

Giles Peek, now a professor of paediatric heart surgery in New York but who used to be in charge at Glenfield, said the unit supported every hospital in the East Midlands and its closure could mark the "death of paediatric services" in the region.

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