A DECISION on the future of the specialist children’s cardiac unit in West Yorkshire is not expected until the end of the year.

Health experts will spend the next five months analysing the huge response to plans to revamp the service across the UK.

Many thousands of people in Huddersfield signed petitions appealing for the unit at Leeds General Infirmary to be kept, as many families in the town have benefited.

They include youngsters Ben Pogson and Joel Bearder, who both underwent lifesaving surgery.

And those behind the major NHS consultation to help shape the future of children’s congenital heart services promised to take those into account, along with the 60,000 individual responses they have had from parents, children and health professionals.

The Safe and Sustainable consultation asked for views on the proposals to make services safe and sustainable for the future by having fewer, larger centres of expertise and creating congenital heart networks to provide care closer to home.

The consultation period ended yesterday.

Only one of the four possible options would see the Leeds centre retained.

Teresa Moss, director of the National Specialised Commissioning Team, said: “While the case for change is widely supported by medical experts, the NHS fully recognises these are not easy decisions.

“I would like to thank everyone for contributing to the consultation and for people’s comments and suggestions on how best to provide these vital services.

“No decisions will be made until all the evidence submitted during consultation has been thoroughly reviewed and analysed.

“Above all the NHS wants to ensure it makes the right decision for children with congenital heart disease in the future.”

Over the coming months responses to the consultation will be analysed by an independent, expert third party.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) – the decision-making body – will consider the feedback carefully and consider other relevant evidence.

The consultation has brought in:

24,202 hard copy response forms

13,645 online response forms

21,230 text messages

234 letters

8 petitions

2,086 people attended 16 consultation events, including three workshops specifically for young people

31 focus groups with parents, children and BAME groups

8 Health Impact Assessment workshops, supplemented by additional phone interviews and family interviews

The JCPCT is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2011. Implementation of any changes to children’s congenital heart services is expected to start in 2013.