Families in limbo after court ruling

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THE dad of a baby who underwent life-saving heart surgery says he has been “left in limbo” after the future of a specialist hospital unit was thrown into fresh doubt.

The children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman was saved last summer after a nationwide review of child cardio care.

The Safe and Sustainable Review ruled the unit at Leeds General Infirmary would close.

Campaigners for the Leeds hospital challenged the decision at London’s High Court saying the review was “unfair and procedurally flawed”.

A High Court judge yesterday ruled the challenge must succeed, but what happens next will be decided at a later date.

The ruling has thrown fresh doubt on the future of the Freeman Hospital for local families who use it, including Hartlepool parents Paul and Ruth Blenkinsop.

Their one-year-old daughter Lorelai had two life-saving operations at the Freeman within her first month of being born to correct a problem with a valve in the right side of her heart.

Paul, 28, of Seaton Lane, who is a full-time carer for Lorelai, said: “It means everything is back up in the air. We are back in limbo.

“It is like we are back to square one and thinking ‘is it going to stay open, is it not going to stay open?’

“It would be silly to change a decision that has already been made and which took months and months to come to.”

The family still take Lorelai for regular check ups to the Freeman hospital and are waiting to see if she will need more surgery.

Paul added: “It is our only cardiac unit in the North-East. The Freeman is also used by families from Cumbria, Birmingham and has taken patients from Great Ormond Street when they have had extra space.

“Whenever we go there for an appointment we go down on the ward and there is pretty much never a bed free.”

Paul raised £890 for the unit by running in last year’s Great North Run, and plans to do it again this year.

In a statement, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it was confident the original decision to keep the Freeman would be upheld.