New threat facing baby heart unit

Lorelai Blenkinsop with dad Paul
Lorelai Blenkinsop with dad Paul
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FAMILY of a baby girl born with a heart disorder have criticised a Government review into the closure of three children’s heart surgery units.

Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital heart unit was threatened with closure as part of NHS plans to reduce the number of centres throughout the country.

It was saved much to the delight of local families whose children have received life-saving operations at the Freeman’s.

But health minister Jeremy Hunt has now ordered a review into the closure of the units at Leeds, Leicester and Brompton.

Hartlepool dad Paul Blenkinsop, whose one-year-old daughter Lorelai had two operations at the Freeman in weeks after she was born, say ministers should not go back on the decision.

Paul, 28, of the Seaton Lane area, said: “It would be silly if they changed their minds, especially after it has gone on for so long.

“They made their decision. I can understand how people in Leeds and the other areas don’t want their heart units to close.

“From the point of view of people in the north there would be a lot of heartache if people have to up sticks and move somewhere else if they need an operation.”

Paul, a full-time carer for Lorelai who is married to Ruth, 27, was one of thousands of people who signed a petition to keep the Freeman’s specialist unit open.

The hospital’s chief executive, Sir Leonard Fenwick, said he believes the Government was only seeking assurances on the impact of the closures.

Newcastle East Labour MP, Nick Brown, said it was wrong to review the decision made after advice by clinicians.

Paul, who raised more than £600 for the Freeman by running September’s Great North Run, added: “There is nothing else in the North-East for anybody. People come from Cunbria and all over the north.

“The Freeman is also one of only two hospitals in the UK to do heart transplants along with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

“Leeds is quite close to Liverpool, Manchester and Brimingham that all have quite big hospitals.”

Lorelai is now on the mend and it is hoped she will not need any more ops.