Bridlington mum hits out at decision to axe heart unit

Kelly Norton with her daughter Laila.
Kelly Norton with her daughter Laila.

A BRIDLINGTON mother has spoken of her devastation at the decision to close the town’s nearest heart unit where her little girl has undergone life-saving surgery.

Kelly Nalton’s two-year-old daughter Laiela was saved by surgeons at the cardiac surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary after being diagnosed with a rare form of congenital heart disease called truncus arteriosus.

Now Kelly, of Waterdale Close has reacted angrily to the decision by health bosses, made last Wednesday, to axe the unit at Leeds meaning she now faces a journey of almost three hours to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, when her little girl has to have further life-saving heart surgery in the coming years.

Laiela has been receiving regular check ups from a consultant from the Leeds unit who would visit Scarborough Hospital - a service which is now in doubt, much to Kelly’s despair.

“I feel sick, I just can’t believe they would put kid’s lives at risk,” said Kelly who has four other children, between the ages of five to 13.

“Are they going to pay our fuel expenses to travel back and for to Newcastle? Are they going to inform schools that siblings will need to take time off to travel to visit their sick family members?,” she added.

In addition to those already receiving treatment, Kelly fears for the lives of unborn babies who may have a heart defect or those children that have an undiagnosed heart problem.

“It’s not just about those that are here now, it’s those that haven’t been born yet, it’s those that perhaps don’t yet know or haven’t been diagnosed with a heart problem who we need to fight for,” she added.

Kelly has thanked everyone who has supported her so far in her fight to try and save the unit, as part of the Save Our Surgery (SOS) Campaign launched last year by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF), and is determined not to give up hope.

Opponents have vowed to refer the decision to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Kelly has called on people in the Bridlington area to contact MP Greg Knight immediately to call on his support to overturn the decision.

And Sharon Cheng, director of the Leeds-based charity CHSF, told the Free Press this week that if they do not have any success in fighting the decision, which she has branded as “pre-determined” and “unfair”, politically then they will battle it out in the courts.

Ms Cheng said the views of patients have been completely ignored but they must continue the fight at a time when birth rates in our region are expected to double over the next ten years.

“We are looking at involving lawyers and a potential judicial review because if Lansley doesn’t change things then maybe the courts will,” she said.

Ms Cheng has also warned that the Freeman Hospital would not reach a target of carrying out a minimum 400 operations a year which could force it to close in the future leaving a huge area in the North without any provision.

“We need to look at how they have reached this decision which gives cause for grave concern,” she added.

NHS officials have described the decision to cut the number of heart surgery units from 10 to seven as a “landmark” which will improve the quality of care for children with congenital heart disease.

Sir Neil McKay CB, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said: “The Needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of the review.”

“We only took the decision after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land.

“Before making our decision, we carefully considered the responses to public consultation and all the available evidence and advice.”