A BRIDLINGTON family is fighting to save the town’s nearest life-saving heart unit for children.
Kelly Nalton’s 17-month-old daughter Laiela was saved by surgeons at the cardiac surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary after being born with a hole in her heart and suffering from bronchiolitis.
Now Kelly, of Waterdale Close, is desperate to save the unit which may move over 100-miles away to Newcastle, Liverpool or even Birmingham, as a result of Government spending cuts.
Mrs Nalton said: “It would be terrible for Bridlington if the unit closed and is particularly upsetting because it’s children’s lives we’re talking about.
“If it closed, of course you would travel anywhere you had to for your children, but the fact is there is a fantastic unit already in Yorkshire and it seems madness to close it down.
“It just feels like nobody cares.”
Laiela spent four weeks in intensive care at the Leeds unit and underwent heart surgery to repair her arteries.
She now suffers from a heart defect which requires regular monitoring by the team at Leeds.
A surgeon from the unit visits Scarborough Hospital once a month to make it easier for Bridlington families – but that service will be lost if the unit is closed.
Mrs Nalton said she cried when she received the letter telling her that the Safe and Sustainable – continued on Page 3
Review had recommended moving children’s cardiac services away from Leeds and she is now urging Bridlington families to support a Save our Surgery (SOS) campaign launched to save the unit.
“This will affect all Bridlington families who have children with serious heart problems,” said Kelly.
“We may end up having to travel for hours up to Newcastle for a service which is already brilliantly provided at Leeds.”
During Laiela’s surgery and recovery, Kelly and her husband took it in turns to stay at the unit’s special family accommodation so that they could still look after their other four children in Bridlington.
Kelly said the whole experience would have been even more traumatic for the family if the journey time was tripled.
Grandmother Mary Bath of Savage Road shares Kelly’s concerns.
Her family are frequent users of the Leeds unit as her 16-year-old grandson suffers from an incurable heart disease.
She said: “He is going to be dealing with this for a long, long time and it is thanks to Leeds that he is alive today.
“But it is not just about kids affected now, you don’t know how many children are going to be born in Bridlington with heart disease in the future.
“God hopes it isn’t many, but it could be anybody’s next child or grandchild.
“The Leeds hospital is absolutely fantastic and I think it is disgusting that the government is going to do this, they are going to take it away from the Yorkshire people.”
As part of government cost-cutting, the NHS Safe and Sustainable Review has recommended that the number of centres in England that carry out the specialist cardiac surgery should reduce from 11 to six or seven.
Four options are being considered, but keeping the Leeds unit only features in one.
Consultant paediatrician at Leeds, Dr Eva Stuwe, admits to having ‘grave concerns’ about the review’s findings and in a letter to families directly affected by the possible closure of Leeds, said: “There is no other explanation for this decision than that the process was seriously flawed.
“Important questions like proximity to population, co-location of services, strength of networks and excellence of care appear to have been ignored.”
Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund spearheading the SOS campaign, said that Bridlington children’s lives will be put in even greater jeopardy if they have to travel hours for surgery.
She added: “It would also cause severe distress for the patients and their families, and would see the end of a great team of specialist surgeons and experienced nurses who have worked so hard to provide unrivalled service and care.
“It would be nice if we had Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle all serving the communities in the north.
“I think people underestimate the size of Yorkshire; we need this service, we need to be heard.”
The SOS campaign has already collected around 200,000 signatures supporting the unit and hopes to have half a million by July.
Copies of the petition are available to sign at the Free Press office, Bridlington Hospital outpatients unit, the WRVS shop, Toby Taylors, Fish and Chips at 149, the Station Avenue Medical Centre and Max Spielmann on Promenade.
Kelly Nalton, who distributed the petitions, thanked all the outlets for displaying them and urged Bridlington residents to support the campaign.
Two public consultations about the review are taking place next month, at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds on May 10 and at the Royal York Hotel on May 14 and anybody wishing to go should register at www.eventsforce.net/safeandsustainable.
The consultation period ends on July 1 and a final decision on the unit’s future is expected to be announced in November.