Archbishop calls for child heart unit to remain open

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Health & Education Editor

THE Archbishop of York has warned that the NHS must be allowed to put a culture of care over a culture of competition as he visited a children's heart unit that is threatened with closure.

Dr John Sentamu spoke out for the first time about the possible closure of the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary, which he said would be devastating and should remain open.

He also said Britain must avoid a winner-takes-all mentality to healthcare in which NHS trusts must go head-to-head in a tough economic climate.

He said: Whilst I understand the difficult economic situation we face as a country, we should not get into a situation where one NHS Trust is played off against another.

The archbishop was invited to the heart surgery unit following a meeting with NHS staff during a Diocesan visit to Ripon and Leeds in 2012.

The NHS review in July 2012 recommended that paediatric heart services should stop at Leeds General Infirmary, and that such surgery should take place at other centres in the country, including the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool.

However, this decision is to be re-examined in two independent reviews.

Dr Sentamu said: It is a great privilege to visit Leeds children's heart surgery unit and to see the life-saving work that is being undertaken on a daily basis.

This unit serves the whole region and has saved the lives of so many across Yorkshire and further afield.

It is inconceivable that we could lose such a fantastic integrated local service."

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