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Family now face move to be near another hospital
A mother of a four-year-old girl with a congenital heart defect last night revealed her “nightmare” after a decision to close a specialist children’s heart unit.
Naomi Wilkinson said her family may be forced to leave their Ilkley home and move closer to another hospital to protect daughter Olivia, after health chiefs decided to close the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).
The decision came after a review team looked at nationwide plans for heart units amid plans to reduce the number in England and make the remaining hospitals more specialised.
But Mrs Wilkinson, of East Parade, said the decision to close the LGI unit, despite a major campaign including a 600,000-signature petition, had broken her family.
Olivia had her life saved twice by specialists at LGI, after undergoing 18 hours of surgery shortly after birth and had to be resuscitated on two occasions during the operations.
She has an incurable heart defect, and faces an uncertain future as she awaits another major operation.
“It’s a nightmare, it’s bad,” said Mrs Wilkinson, who now has to make the choice of where her daughter will travel for palliative care, which could be Newcastle, Birmingham or Liverpool.
“It’s torn our family apart. I just don’t see how it’s supposed to work.
“After one of her operations we were in the hospital for eight months.
“We’re the largest county with an increasing population of children with congenital heart defects.
“In terms of Olivia’s future we’ll have to consider moving closer to another hospital given the nature of her palliative care.
“It just seems unrealistic at the moment.”
The consultation process was part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services. It followed the inquiry into children’s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.
In the wake of the inquiry, it was recommended that paediatric cardiac units be set a target for the number of operations per year, and surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres in order to ensure quality of care.