Mother’s relief over news that heart surgery unit will stay

A PEGSWOOD mother has spoken of her relief that children’s heart surgery will continue in Newcastle.

Margaret Kerswell was one of thousands of parents campaigning to keep children’s congenital cardiac services at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, which cared for her daughter Jayne, as NHS bosses looked to cut the number of specialist centres nationwide.

News finally came through last Wednesday that the Newcastle heart unit would remain.

Mrs Kerswell said: “We are absolutely elated, I feel that the best decision has been made.

“This is a world class hospital, which has saved hundreds of lives through heart transplant surgery alone.

“Waiting for the result was like waiting to get your teeth pulled out, everybody was on tenterhooks.

“The decision should have been announced at 4pm, but it was nearly 7pm when we got the decision. It was just so emotional.

“We are not going through the system now, but the hospital means such a lot to all the heart families.

“It is absolutely amazing and I’m so pleased that children are still going to be able to go to the same place and get the same quality of care.”

Mrs Kerswell says she will be forever grateful to the Freeman for giving her 11 days with her daughter Jayne.

Jayne was born in 2008 with serious heart problems and underwent major surgery at the Freeman, but she suffered further complications with her lungs and liver and was unable to survive.

Mrs Kerswell and her husband Andrew set up the Jayne Esther ECMO Fund in their daughter’s memory to try to raise £100,000 for another Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine, which had been used during Jayne’s treatment, for the hospital.

“This hospital gave me 11 days with Jayne and as far as I’m concerned it is the only place I would ever want to take my children if they needed treatment,” said Mrs Kerswell.

The NHS Safe and Sustainable Review was one of the largest consultations in the service’s history, with 75,000 people responding.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts considered 12 options for rationalising services to establish fewer, larger centres with larger teams of surgeons.

The committee has decided that hospitals in Leicester, Leeds and the Royal Brompton in London will stop performing children’s heart surgery, with changes due to be implemented from 2014, but the Freeman will continue.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said: “I am very pleased indeed that the long-term future for the children’s congenital cardiac service at the Freeman has now been secured and I am sure everyone will want to thank all those who have worked so hard to make the case to the panel.”

 Mrs Kerswell has also urged more people to sign up as organ donors.

She is seeking support for National Transplant Week, running this week.

She said: “If you were on the transplant list and needed an organ you would take whatever was offered.

“If you are willing to take an organ you should be willing to give it. When you are no longer here you are not going to need it, but someone else could get some valuable time with their family and children. The more people who sign the better.”