Ten sick children had to be transferred up to 120 miles from a Leeds paediatric heart unit while surgery was suspended, it has emerged.

The children were due to be treated at Leeds General Infirmary’s children’s heart unit, where operations were temporarily suspended.

The children had to be transported to Birmingham, Alder Hey in Liverpool, Newcastle and six of the 10 were taken to Leicester while the unit was closed, it was revealed at a recent meeting.

Surgery was suspended after NHS England said it had “serious concerns” that data showed the unit had a death rate double that of other centres.

At a meeting chaired by the Yorkshire and Humberside Joint Health Scrutiny Overview Committee in Leeds, details of the impact on young patients were revealed.

John Illingworth, chairman of the committee, which assesses and monitors healthcare in the region, said the 10 children affected had endured discomfort by being moved around the country while the future of the unit was being discussed.

“Distances like that are hard enough when you’re in good health,” he said, speaking outside the meeting.

He added that the decision to suspend surgery at the unit was “premature” as NHS England “rushed to conclusions” based on raw and potentially misleading data. It adds to previous criticism by local politicians of NHS England’s action.

However, NHS England’s director for West Yorkshire, Andy Buck, told the meeting in Leeds Civic Hall that the health service had no choice but to act after the figures suggested a “potentially dangerous” situation.

“To not do things is very easy,” he said, adding that the suspension period enabled NHS England to ensure the unit was safe.