In our August 2012 Health Legal Update, we reported the controversial decision of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts to stop paediatric heart surgery in several hospitals. The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has now decided to pursue judicial review of this decision. The challenge was announced by Leeds based organisation, the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the joint committee has expressed disappointment at the news of the legal challenge. In his view, the action is “very limited” and hinges on “a narrow technical aspect” of information that was not available to the committee at the time it made the decision.
The committee’s intention to defend the decision has been confirmed by Sir Neil McKay who is quoted as saying, “We will mount a robust defence of the decision making process to ensure these vital changes are implemented as soon as possible”.
Opposition to the committee’s decision persists and other trusts continue to voice their objections. Dr Aidan Bolger of University Hospitals of Leicester stated that, in their case, the decision was made on the basis of outdated information from 2006 which did not reflect the rising demand on services by 2009. The decision concerning Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital is now before Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt and an online petition against its closure has received more than 60,000 signatures in support. Interestingly in August, Leicester announced that it would not be pursuing legal action regarding the decision. After consulting with a barrister, the trust concluded that there were no realistic grounds for a judicial review. It will be interesting to see how this issue develops and whether Leeds’ actions encourage further legal challenges against the committee’s decision.