A review of specialist heart surgery units for children has cost more than £8m, an MP has claimed.
Tory MP Stuart Andrew said he had discovered the NHS had spent more than £300,000 alone on legal fees, and another £1.7m on external communications consultants, as he urged it to drop its appeal against a High Court ruling that its decision to cut the number of specialist centres was “legally flawed”.
In a written parliamentary answer to the MP for Pudsey, the health minister Anna Soubry said the “safe and sustainable review” - set up to look at the number and locations of children’s heart units across England - had cost more than £8m since 2009. It is now being led by NHS England, and was previously led by a national committee of primary care trusts.
Of that, £301,000 was spent on legal fees to fight a judicial review brought by the campaign group Save our Surgery against its decision to close the unit at Leeds General Infirmary last month. Another £1.74m was spent on “external communications consultants”, and a further £6,036,000 was spent on “other costs”.
Mr Andrew told MPs in the Commons that NHS England should not appeal the High Court’s ruling.
He said: “Figures released in an answer to a written question to myself on the safe and sustainable review show that costs to date include over £300,000 in legal fees, £1.7m in external communications consultants and over £6m in other costs.
“This is around £8m in total and now we hear that NHS England plans to add to these costs by appealing a High Court decision and potentially delaying the IRP (Independent Reconfiguration Panel) report.
“Given the time available, is there any way we can urge NHS England not to appeal, so that we can finally get a resolution to children’s heart surgery in this country.”
In reply, Commons leader Andrew Lansley said the decision about whether to appeal was down to NHS England.
He said: “These are decisions for NHS England and I, of all people, must recognise that if we legislate to give greater independence in decision making to NHS England on the basis that they will lead on clinical matters.
“What you say will of course be communicated to NHS England and they will obviously consider all the value for money aspects with how they will proceed.”
Earlier, Save our Surgery described the decision to appeal the High Court’s ruling a ”disgraceful waste of time and taxpayers’ money”.
It comes after a successful challenge against the suggested closure of the unit at Leeds General Infirmary at London’s High Court last month, when Mrs Justice Nicola Davies declared the decision-making process ”legally flawed”.
The High Court’s ruling came after the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts selected seven specialist centres for the future delivery of paediatric cardiac surgery in England.
The controversial decision - if it eventually stands - will mean the closure of the Leeds unit as well as those at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and London’s Royal Brompton.
The reconfiguration was the result of the safe and sustainable NHS review, which was triggered by the Bristol heart scandal in the 1990s in which 35 babies died and dozens more were left brain-damaged.
The aim of the review is to provide fewer but more efficient units round the country.