The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund got its start thanks to a single visionary heart surgeon in 1988. Duncan Walker, a congenital cardiac surgeon in Leeds, realized that his facility was missing out on opportunities to save the lives of infants and children. Though there was new equipment available that could provide benefits, the Leeds hospitals could not afford to purchase these highly specified tools.
Therefore, Walker decided to set up a charity that would help fund pediatric cardiac surgery. The public immediately responded to this cause, and in just a year, enough money was raised to build a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Once Walker realized just how much the public cared about this important cause, he decided to continue running the charity even after the initial goal was met.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund continued to raise money for keeping the Leeds unit operational. This took on a whole new sense of urgency in 2011 when changes to legislation threatened to close the entire clinic. The issue arose after a scandal in the 1990s when several children died in the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Due to this problem, the government had decided to move all children’s heart surgeries to a few specialist clinics.
If this law was enacted, the Leeds unit would have to shut down. However, the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund launched the ‘Save Our Surgery’ campaign. With a petition of over 600,000 signatures and a massive demonstration, they generated national interest. When even this was not enough, the charity then used funds to start a legal action against the Department of Health. This ultimately proved successful in 2013, when a High Court judge ruled that the Leeds clinic deserved a more thorough analysis before closure.
In 2015, it was determined that the LGI actually did meet most of the national standards for pediatric heart surgery units, and the clinic was allowed to stay open. This whole saga showed just how successful the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund could be when the people of Leeds united for a cause. With pressure to continue meeting national standards, the charity has continued to run fundraising efforts. Recently, £500,000 was raised in a year to launch a revolutionary hybrid theatre that continues to help save lives.