Watch: Harrogate 4-year-old George thanks the rescued NHS service which 'saved his life'

A Harrogate mum has praised the work of a recently-saved NHS service, explaining that the unit 'saved her son's life' after he was born with only half a heart.

The Congenital Heart Unit at Leeds General Infirmary has been under threat since 2011 when an NHS review first earmarked the unit for closure.

George, 4, with mum Jane.

George, 4, with mum Jane.

But after years of work by campaigners and healthcare staff, NHS bosses confirmed that the service would remain open in November.

Now, mum-of-two, Jane Hinkins, has reinforced the importance of the Leeds-based Congenital Heart Unit for the Harrogate district, explaining that her son 'wouldn't be here' without it.

She said: "At 20 weeks into my pregnancy, they told us that George's heart wasn't growing as it should be."

Born with only half a working heart, George had his first surgery at just two days old, another at 10 months and was due to have another between his fourth and fifth birthdays.

Jane said: "If this unit had closed we would have had to go to Newcastle for all our appointments and any further surgeries.

"The staff in Leeds and the Children's Heart Surgery Fund have been invaluable to us. They have basically saved George's life.

"If it wasn't for them he wouldn't be here."

Jane added; "If we had an emergency, you want to know that you could get there as soon as possible."

After his first and second surgeries, George and his parents had to go back to Leeds once a week to monitor his progress.

Harrogate councillor, and Chair of North Yorkshire's Scrutiny of Health Commission, Jim Clark, was one of several councillors who campaigned for the Leeds Unit to remain open.

He said: "Our committee started by saying we wanted to keep both Leeds and Newcastle's units open."

He added: "It was life threatening to children so I was adamant we kept the service."

Coun Clark said the campaign had also been successful in merging both adults' and childrens' congenital heart care at the Leeds unit, to allow for comprehensive care of patients living with conditions from birth.

He said: "With more and more people living to become adults, who may have been born with a congenital heart defect, it was important that they managed the two together."

Because George's heart only works at 80 per cent capacity of a healthy heart, George faces the prospect of having major surgery at various stages for the rest of his life.

Jane also thanked George's nursery, Footprints, on Arthurs Avenue, for their support after they supported Wear Red Day for the charity, Children's Heart Surgery Fund, last year.