NHS England has announced that three hospital trusts in Leicester, Manchester and London (Royal Brompton and Harefield) will have to stop complex surgery on people born with heart problems. Five other trusts (Blackpool, Manchester, Papworth, Nottingham and Imperial College) will have to stop providing other heart services and procedures. It will also have knock on effects on many other services provided, such as paediatric intensive care, and on other hospitals that use their services.

Four years ago the NHS nationally – and in reality the government behind them – tried to ‘centralise’ services and were defeated by campaigns and legal challenges. Now they are trying again. The medical arguments they put forward are flawed and it is the billions of pounds of “efficiency savings” (read cuts) required of the NHS by this government that are really behind it.

Leicester Glenfield heart unit is one of the best and has pioneered certain treatments in this country. Last year, despite carrying out hundreds of surgeries, they had a zero mortality rate within 30 days of the operation. NHS England say they fall short of a totally arbitrary target of 375 operations, yet last year it was 331 and is expanding.

Leicester had the first Ecmo (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine in the country – allowing patients, especially children and babies, to survive heart or lung failure. It now has 50% of the country’s paediatric capacity. Closing the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre in Leicester would mean the loss of this service and all the expertise built up over years.

The NHS needs defending. Funding needs expanding, privatisation must be reversed and democratic control is needed over decision making!