Join the fight, urges mum who lost baby

A MOTHER who endured the tragedy of losing her baby daughter has urged people across the region to fight for a specialist children’s heart unit.

Margaret Kerswell, of Pegswood, says it is vital that Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital is able to continue performing cardiac surgery on children as the main centre in the North.

The service is under threat from a national NHS Safe and Sustainable Review, which seeks to reduce the number of hospitals providing children’s heart surgery from 11 to six or seven.

The Freeman’s work would be retained in three of the four options put forward for consultation, but one of them would see operations moved to Leeds.

Mrs Kerswell, who says she will be eternally grateful to the unit for giving her 11 days with her daughter Jayne, has warned that with just two weeks until consultation ends time is running out for people to show their support.

“We really need people to get their finger out and do something about this because it is going to affect all of the North, never mind the North East,” she said.

“It is just an absolutely fabulous unit — it gave me 11 days with my daughter, which I wouldn’t have had.

“The staff are so committed. You go in there and see the same faces all the time. I think it is a big part of helping young children get better because they develop a relationship with the staff and can trust these nurses. It is a fantastic set up.

“It is just scary to think we could lose it. It is heartbreaking that it is in this situation.

“If they stop the operations at the Freeman children will go there to be stabilised and then transfer to Leeds. If they require further care they could end up in Birmingham.”

Jayne was born in January 2008 with serious heart problems.

She underwent major surgery at the Freeman and was put on an Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine to help her recover, but she developed problems with her lungs and liver and died at just 11 days old.

Mrs Kerswell and her husband Andrew set up the Jayne Esther ECMO Fund to raise £100,000 for another machine for the Freeman.

But now there is the possibility that it may not be able to use it.

“To me it is a no-brainer, the unit should stay as it is,” said Mrs Kerswell.

“It is already set up, everything is there, we have the infrastructure and the people to support it.”

Since consultation started in March 760 people from the region have taken part.

All responses will be collated and a report will be provided to the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts to decide the way forward late this year.

Hospitals that will no longer continue surgery may become children’s cardiology centres.

Associate Director of the North East Specialised Commissioning Group Sue Cornick said: “I encourage people to have their say before the consultation ends on July 1. No decisions have been made and every response will be considered.”

To give your views visit www.ipsos-mori.com/safeandsustainable or call 0191 217 2758 for a response form. Alternatively text HEART to 85001 free of charge and a question will be sent to you for a response.