The Journal Opinion: Future of children’s heart units to be looked into at last

The Journal's opinion column for Tuesday, September 16, in which we look at the future of the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital

The Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle
The Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle

Quick, call the men in the white coats - an outbreak of what appears to be common sense seems to have broken out among the powers that be.

Who knows, if it proves to be contagious, then correct decisions could be taken all over the country for a change...

On this occasion it means that a decade of uncertainty and speculation, and all the subsequent fears, concerns and anguish, about the future of the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital may soon be over.

A consultation paper on the long-term future of such centres in England has just been issued by the NHS.

And in a departure from the past it suggests that under-threat centres may survive - if they meet strict criteria.

Such units across the country had been put in competition against each other.

Some were to close and centres of excellence were set to replace them, under the plans which were seen by many as simply cost-cutting measures.

This sparked intense outrage as families fought to save their threatened local units which, so often, had performed near-miracles to save young children.

Inevitably the decision went to appeal and the courts as determined campaigners fought to save these incredibly valuable local assets.

This new move has been welcomed by Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Freeman.

Likewise it will be welcomed by the thousands of tiny lives, all over the UK and beyond, which have been saved by the incredible staff at the hospital’s unit.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer