A DAD has described a specialist child heart hospital that is at risk of closing as “top class”.
Rikki Kinsella praised Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital which carried out two life-saving operations on his baby son Ryan.
The hospital’s child heart service could be forced to close as part of an NHS review looking into reducing the number of hospitals in the country that provide the specialist care.
But Rikki, who lives with partner Michelle Groom, slammed the idea as “ridiculous”.
He said: “I think it’s ridiculous they are thinking of getting rid of it because it’s the only one in the North-East.
“The thought of having to go to Birmingham or London when Ryan needs an operation is a bit daunting, whereas the Freeman is only a 45-minute drive away.
“I can’t understand why they are even contemplating it.”
Rikki, 32, described the level of care the family, from the Rossmere area of Hartlepool, had received from the Freeman’s doctors and nurses as “first class”.
The Freeman has looked after Ryan, who turns two next month, since it was found the valves in his heart were the wrong way round when Michelle, 28, was still pregnant.
Surgeons fitted a band to his heart when he was just six-weeks-old and last summer carried out an operation to create a shunt to improve Ryan’s blood flow.
Ryan is due to undergo a third operation to fully correct the problem when he is around four-years-old.
Rikki, a haulage driver, added: “There is not a hospital I have ever been to that comes close to the Freeman. The staff explained everything that happened to us and were amazing.”
The NHS review, Safe and Sustainable, proposes to reduce the number of hospitals providing children’s heart surgery from 11 to six or seven.
It has come up with four possible options, one of which does not feature the Freeman Hospital.
Leslie Hamilton, vice chairman of the Safe and Sustainable Steering Group, said: “These changes are about saving lives not saving money.
“Pooling surgical resources in fewer larger centres will produce better outcomes for children and ensure these vital services are safe and sustainable for the future.”
If the Freeman’s child heart surgery was axed, the nearest centre for Hartlepool and east Durham patients would be Leeds General Infirmary.
A four month consultation starts on Monday.