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29 March 2013, 09:23
Children's congenital heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary has been suspended as a review is carried out.
The medical director of the NHS, Bruce Keogh, said it was "a highly responsible precautionary step".
The centre has been at the middle of a long dispute over the future of the heart services and this announcement came 24 hours after a High Court ruling kept surgery there.
Leeds General Infirmary kids heart unit was set to close, so the NHS could concentrate on bigger centres across the country - but that decision was quashed by a High Court judge on Wednesday.
Children who would have been treated in Leeds will be sent to other hospitals, like Liverpool or Newcastle.
Affected families are being contacted directly by the trust and the review is expected to take three weeks.
The chief executive of the Children's Heart Federation, said she had already had concerns about surgery outcomes two years ago, and more recently, when parents had reported difficulties in getting referrals at Leeds to other heart units.
In a statement on the Children’s Heart Federation website, Anne Keatley-Clarke said: "My concern is that it appears that managers and clinicians in Leeds, together with the parent support group, have put their own interests ahead of the well-being of critically ill children and their very vulnerable parents."
Sir Bruce and senior managers from the Care Quality Commission visited the hospital on Thursday to say it must stop all children's heart surgery there immediately.
In a statement, Sir Bruce said: "The trust has taken a highly responsible precautionary step.
"Some questions have been raised by the trust's own mortality data and by other information.
"It is important to understand that while this information raises questions, it does not give us answers."
The chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said outside experts would be drafted in to help review "all aspects" of care.
In a statement, Maggie Boyle apologised to parents and families affected but assured them the trust always put the safety of patients first.
Sharon Cheng, from Save Our Surgery - the group which is co-ordinating the fight to keep children's heart surgery in Leeds - said: "We're mystified.
"We don't know of anything that could justify this step."