Families in South Holland fighting to keep a specialist heart surgery unit for the region open have won support from a leading trade union.
UNISON, which represents more than 1.3 million workers, has revealed that it is “working closely” with manangers at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, where heart surgeries are under threat of closure by NHS England.
The union’s support came as a petition by Holbeach dad Dan Taylor and his sons, Harvey and Oliver, to save Glenfield Hospital’s East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre from the axe was signed by more than 200 people.
Dan said: “I was surprised that there were a lot of people who did not know that the heart centre could be closing and I had to explain to them what it was about.
“People were shocked and I would say about 60 per cent of people had no idea about the news.
“But there was a good response to the petition and the boys were fantastic, especially Oliver who is only four but was stopping people and asking them to sign the petition.”
This is a public service which is vital not only to the people of Leicestershire but also people across the UK and we do not believe that NHS England has provided any evidence to support its decisionA UNISON spokesman
Oliver had surgery at the centre after a bad cough at the age of two turned out to be a hole in the heart and muscle growth which stopped blood flowing to his lungs.
A UNISON spokesman said: “We believe that the closure of the unit and also the impact on other services will be devastating.
“We will do everything in our power to protect this service from closure and believe that NHS England is making an ill-judged decision.
“UNISON calls upon NHS England to provide evidence demonstrating how they have fully engaged with community representative groups to show that the legal minimum standard of competency on engagement has been reached.
“This is a public service which is vital not only to the people of Leicestershire but also people across the UK and we do not believe that NHS England has provided any evidence to support its decision.”
NHS England announced in July that Glenfield, along with hospitals in Manchester and London, would no longer perform complex heart surgeries due to their failure to meet “core standards of quality and sustainability” and were “extremely unlikely to be able to do so”
But the spokesman for UNISON said: “We are working closely with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (which runs Glenfield) and are fully supportive of the Trust’s challenge to NHS England regarding the closure of the Glenfield Hospital Children’s Congenital Heart Unit.
“WE are also assisting with the collection of signatures on the e-Government petition which has been sent out to UNISON staff, members, union branches and activists across the UK, urging them to share and sign the petition so that the 100,000-signature mark needed can be achieved.
“The petition would then be considered for debate in Parliament but, in the meantime, UNISON will be organising petition-gathering events in the community to encourage members of the pubic to the sign the e-Government petition.”
Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England’s director of specialised commissioning and deputy national medical director, said: “Patients, families and staff need to be assured of sustainable, high-quality services now and into the future.
“There has been a great deal of uncertainty over the future of congenital heart disease services over the past 15 years and we owe it to patients, families and staff to end that uncertainty by providing clear direction for the safety and quality of this specialist area of medicine going forward.
“A great deal of work has gone into achieving consensus across the board on the standards that providers should meet and we are determined to take all actions necessary to ensure that those standards are met.
“This is so that patients get the high-quality and safe services that they expect and deserve.
“This is further proof that NHS England, as the national commissioner of specialised care, is stepping up decisively on behalf of patients now and to sustain quality care for the future.”