Huge support for campaign

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AS HUNDREDS of people flocked to public consultations on the future of children’s heart services in Leeds, a local mother is delighted with the response from Bridlington residents.

The Free Press reported last month that Kelly Nalton of Waterdale Close has backed the SOS Save our Surgery campaign against proposed cuts to children’s cardiac services in Leeds.

The cuts could see Bridlington families having to travel as far as Birmingham for specialist cardiac treatment for their children and Kelly distributed dozens of petitions around the town opposing the move. She said that the petitions have been well supported by locals.

“They are going really, really well, the response has been better than I could’ve hoped for,” she said.

“People didn’t really seem to know anything about it, but then it went in the paper and all of a sudden it has just taken off and I’m really pleased that people are getting behind the campaign because it does affect Bridlington families.”

Kelly said that the petition has been so popular in Martongate’s Co-op store that staff had to move it to a separate till because so many people were queuing up to sign it.

The issue is particularly close to Kelly’s heart as her daughter Laiela needed life-saving treatment at the unit at Leeds General Infirmary after being born with a hole in her heart and suffering from heart disease.

But the unit’s future is in doubt after a review suggested that the north could be served by one unit either at Newcastle, Liverpool or Birmingham - all of which are over three hours away from Bridlington.

More than 400 people attended two public consultation sessions in Leeds last week and speaking at the event, Professor Roger Boyle CBE, National Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said that there was ‘a wealth of clinical evidence’ showing that children’s heart surgery services should be concentrated in fewer centres.

He added: “We need to put the interests of children first and it is in their best interests to have surgeons and their teams working together in larger centres to deliver world class care, supported by specialist cardiac nurses and children’s doctors providing expert on-going care closer to where families live.

“No decisions have been made yet and the NHS will be considering what the people of Yorkshire told us yesterday.

“There is clearly strong support for the unit in Leeds and we are grateful to those who took the time to tell us their views.

“I encourage as many people as possible to respond formally to the consultation.”

Young people are also being urged to contribute to the debate and the consultation body, NHS Safe and Sustainable, has launched a text service to enable youngsters to get their views across via a free mobile phone text message.

Fiona Smith, Adviser in children and young people’s nursing at the Royal College of Nursing and a member of the Safe and Sustainable Steering Group, said: “This review is about providing the best services for children and young people.

“Who better to tell us what they think than the young people using this service?

“This is a very real consultation and the NHS want young people, whether someone with a congenital heart condition, brother, sister or friend, to have their say.”

Young people can text ‘HEART’ to 85001 free of charge and will be sent a question asking them for their view on the proposals for change. A further public consultation took place in York on Saturday and the four month consultation period ends on July 1 before a final decision on the future of the Leeds services is expected later this year.

Bridlington residents can show their support for the Leeds unit by filling in the petitions in the following places: the Free Press office, Co-op on Martongate, Bridlington Hospital outpatients unit, the WRVS shop, Toby Taylors, Fish and Chips at 149, the Station Avenue Medical Centre and Max Spielmann on Promenade.