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When he expects to make a final decision on the safe and sustainable review into children’s heart surgery units in England.
This is a clinically led, independent review, within the NHS. The joint committee of primary care trusts, on behalf of NHS commissioners, will make decisions on the future pattern of children’s heart surgery services in England. The review is expected to report before the end of the year.
I am sure that the Secretary of State recognises the huge and spirited campaign by local people to retain the children’s heart unit at Leeds general infirmary. Will he confirm that option E, which would retain the Leeds unit, will receive full and equal consideration by the joint committee of primary care trusts?
The review will develop the recommendations to ensure that children’s heart surgery services deliver the very highest standard of care for children and their families. The joint committee of primary care trusts will consider all the relevant evidence before making a decision on the future configuration of children’s heart surgery services, and I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friend.
I should emphasise that no aspect of this review is driven by money: it is entirely about how to ensure sustainable high-quality surgery. The issue is in how many and which centres surgical teams should be based in order to maintain that high-quality care.
There is a deep-rooted belief that this review is biased against the survival of the Leeds unit. Will the Minister therefore please assure the House that the decision will be made purely on the evidence, and not on the basis of any preconceived idea of which units should survive and which should not?
It is an independent review and I can assure the hon. Lady that that is indeed the case. It will be based on the evidence. I am sure that she will have heard the response to a debate earlier in the year by the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend Mr Burns, who said that while the review has put forward options for consideration, it should not be constrained to consider only those options.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the criteria for the review remain the same; that the rather strange remarks—about more people having voted for one option but more organisations having voted for another—have not affected them; and that those criteria will be used to judge the decision?
This review came about as a result of the tragic Bristol heart babies scandal in the 1990s, and it is a measure of the quality of services at Bristol children’s hospital that it is now being considered for all four options under the consultation. A few weeks ago, I abseiled down the children’s hospital for Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, which is an excellent charity. However, will the Secretary of State assure me that, with the move to fewer and larger specialised units, they will be properly funded and will not rely on MPs throwing themselves off tall buildings?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. All the representations that we have received in the debates in this House are ample evidence of the high regard and support that Members have for their children’s heart surgery services. None of this is about saving money or resources. It is entirely about what delivers the best quality surgical services for children with cardiac problems. To that extent, the intention is that those services—once the decision has been made—are fully funded.