Dad of brave Hartlepool youngster angry at government’s heart service U-turn

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THE family of a brave youngster born with a rare heart defect are “disappointed” in the Government’s decision to re-evaluate the streamlining of children’s heart services.

Plans to shut the specialist heart units in three hospitals, including one in Leeds, were put on hold by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week after an independent review suggested the consultation process “left too many questions unanswered”.

It was previously announced that the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital was saved from closure, but that may now be in jeopardy after the latest ruling.

Hartlepool dad Rikki Kinsella, whose four-year-old son, Ryan, was born with a rare heart condition affecting just one in 30,000 children, is still confident the unit in Newcastle will stay open, where the youngster has had three operations.

But the 34-year-old from Rossmere did admit his disappointment that the plans were deemed to be flawed.

“We have been through it all before where we were worrying about the services at Newcastle being closed and we thought that was behind us,” said Rikki, who lives with his partner, Michelle Groom, 30.

“Obviously we don’t know what’s going to happen now, but I just hope they keep the Freeman unit open. I do feel sorry for the people who use the Leeds unit and it’s the same for other people around the country who use the other units.”

Mr Hunt has asked NHS England to continue with the process of looking into the reorganisation of children’s heart surgery, saying that the streamlining of services must continue.

Rikki said brave Ryan is “right as rain” and coming on well. The youngster needed the operations after he was born with the valves in his heart the wrong way round.

Rikki and Michelle were warned Ryan would need a heart transplant in the future if he encountered complications, but the pair are delighted with his progress.