A DECISION to keep children's heart surgery in the North East was "procedurally flawed" a Yorkshire campaign group has claimed.
A High Court hearing in London is being asked to consider an accusation brought by a campaign group based in Leeds to overturn a decision made by the NHS to reconfigure children’s heart services in England.
Last year it was announced that children’s heart surgery would continue at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital after a ruling was made to keep the lifesaving service.
The NHS concluded that children living in Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire would be seen at surgical units that are better able to meet new quality standards in Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham.
But the campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS), which represents residents in the Leeds area, says an unfair consultation process left consultees “shooting in the dark” and should be rerun.
The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) say the consultation process was fair and all relevant considerations were properly taken into account when it took its decision.
The Leeds unit faces closure along with Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital and London’s Royal Brompton.
Philip Havers QC, appearing for SOS, said that nearly 600,000 people had signed a petition against the Leeds closure.
He told Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting at London’s High Court, the consultation process was unfair because the JCPCT denied consultees the chance to question how the quality of their services had been assessed.
Mr Havers said the Kennedy Panel, a group of experts set up to advise the JCPCT, had produced “sub-scores” measuring the quality of service under various criteria.
But the JCPCT chose only to look at the panel’s total scores, and “bizarrely” refused to disclose the sub-scores to consultees, although it made them available “almost immediately” after it made its decision on how heart surgery services were to be reconfigured.
Mr Havers said: “It begs the question why not disclose the information before the decision was taken so that the consultees could comment on the scores? If your public duty is to make such information available to consultees you cannot avoid that obligation by saying you won’t look at it yourself.”
Mr Havers added: “There were points which Leeds could, and would, have undoubtedly made about how the Kennedy Panel had scored them.”
It would also have commented on the scoring “as between Leeds and Newcastle”.
The High Court hearing continues today.
In a separate move, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked for the decision to be reviewed.