NHS bosses say they ‘do not believe’ moving crucial children’s heart services from Glenfield Hospital to Birmingham will cause harm to patients.
The proposals, which have proven highly controversial, could see parents travelling an extra 40 minutes from Lincolnshire to obtain treatment for their ill children.
A staggering 130,000 people had signed a petition in February to oppose the plans which they fear will lead to a worse service for the county and surrounding area.
But Professor Huon Gray, national clinical director for NHS England, said he didn’t believe it would cause any clinical harm during a consultation with Lincolnshire families on Thursday, June 22.
He told the BBC: “I am not saying it’s not a good thing to have carers as close to home as possible, it is the case that what we are trying to do is ensure consistent, highest quality care across the whole country.
“We do not believe that patients will come to clinical harm as a consequence of the extra travel time involved.
“Inconvenience is something that is a separate matter that we acknowledge.”
Life-saving heart surgery at Glenfield Hospital is set to be scrapped because NHS bosses say it is unlikely that the hospital will be able to meet new standards and intend to stop paying for it.
But the plans have been met with intense resistance.
Treasurer of Heart Link, a children’s charity, Gill Smart previously told Lincolnshire Live: “I worked in the heart centre. It doesn’t need to close.
“We’re not a production line, these are children’s lives they’re playing with. We do fantastic work.
“That’s what it’s all about – giving the children a better chance in life.”
Mr Smart added: “They’re not going to save money anyway. If they close one unit down and have to move them somewhere else it’s still going to cost money in the long run.
“The NHS at the moment is in such a mess.”
Heart Link committee member John Rigby, whose daughter has had five operations at Glenfield, previously told Lincolnshire Live he didn’t believe people were being told the truth.
He said: “I think NHS England has got some hidden agenda. It’s scandalous.
“They want to close this hospital and send people to Birmingham or Leeds.
“It’s going to put additional strains on those hospitals, particularly Birmingham, and it’s for no apparent reason at all.”
Jen McGurk of Leicestershire said the closure was being forced to happen.
The 53-year-old said: “It’s one of the best centres in the country, so why are they closing it? It’s an absolute disgrace.”