Sunderland parents fear child heart surgery ruling

David Barker, 26, Rachael Martin, 19 and 16 month old Jake Barker.
David Barker, 26, Rachael Martin, 19 and 16 month old Jake Barker.
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PARENTS of Sunderland children treated at a pioneering North East hospital unit have been left disappointed by a High Court ruling into heart surgery changes.

Campaigners from Leeds have won their challenge over a proposed shake-up of services.

It had previously been decided by an NHS panel that the children’s surgical unit at Leeds would close, and patients would be treated at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Yesterday’s decision comes as a blow for scores of Wearside families who have had sick children cared for by the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman, and who had been assured its future was secure.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting at London’s High Court, ruled that the Leeds challenge must succeed – but what the victory means for the future of the North East unit will be decided at a later date.

The father of 16-month-old Jake Barker has been fund-raising for the Freeman unit after medics there helped save his son’s life.

Jake battled through severe heart problems, having to have surgery when he was just five weeks old. He has since had another operation there.

Dad David Barker and mum Rachael Martin, of Hendon, are hoping to raise thousands of pounds for unit later this month.

David, 21, said: “It’s disappointing to hear the challenge has been upheld but in some ways we were expecting it.

“I just hope people remember how important this unit is, not just to the North East, but to Scotland too.

“Children are treated there from all over the North of the UK and to lose it would be terrible.”

It was decided last year that children’s heart surgery would continue at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

But campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS), which represents residents in the Leeds area, insisted it was an unfair consultation process.

THE hospital trust responsible for the unit said it remained confident that children’s heart surgery would remain in the North East.

A spokesman for Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are disappointed that the implementation of the review will be further delayed by this litigation.

“However, we remain confident that the original decision will in due course be upheld and the Freeman Hospital will be one of the designated centres providing specialist children’s cardiac surgery.

“Newcastle Hospitals gives reassurance that our first and foremost consideration will remain the interests of children and their families.”