A Gateford mum and her sons were among thousands of campaigners who gathered in Leeds on Monday to support the city’s threatened children’s heart unit.
Loraine Hodkinson and her sons Jacob and Benjamin took part in the rally at Millennium Square to protest at the proposal to end paediatric heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.
Jacob, now four, had life-saving heart surgery at Leeds when he was just nine days old and may not have survived if he’d had to travel further.
Mum Loraine has been one of thousands of parents who have fought to overturn the NHS reforms and said Monday’s rally was ‘amazing’.
“The atmosphere was electric, with the crowd singing ‘We shall not be moved’ as we marched through the packed streets of Leeds town centre with onlookers giving us support and traffic brought to a standstill,” she said.
“When we arrived back at Millennium Square it was the turn of parents representing all the areas Leeds General covers to tell their stories and bring the crowd to a frenzy of applause and cheers as each ended their speech with the same ‘We shall not be moved’.”
The facility at Leeds was one of three earmarked for closure following a review of children’s heart services.
The NHS review decided having 10 units carrying out children’s heart surgery spread expertise too thin.
But campaigners say the closure of the Leeds unit would leave a population of 14 million people having to travel from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham for treatment.
A health watchdog representing 15 councils across the Yorkshire and Humber met on Tuesday in Leeds to review the decision.
Professor Sir Roger Boyle, former clinical director for heart disease and stroke and clinical adviser to the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said Leeds General Infirmary would continue to provide cardiology services to children but surgery would be provided by fewer larger centres.
Sir Roger said: “I recognise that people have shown a huge loyalty for the hospital in Leeds but pooling surgical expertise means the clinical community can work together, develop new techniques and deliver improved care to keep more children with complex heart conditions alive,” he said.