4:05pm Tuesday 21st June 2011
By Melanie Adams
225,000 people all with the same message – save children’s heart surgery in Southampton.
Today the Daily Echo can reveal the final total amount of signatures on our Have a Heart petition, just 24 hours before the fight to save the specialist unit at Southampton General Hospital is taken to Downing Street and the doorstep of Number 10.
In just 17 weeks an overwhelming 225,000 people have put pen to paper, sending a clear message to health bosses that when it comes to the lives of our children, quality of care is paramount.
Unlike other units that are fighting for survival Southampton is the only one that can boast being the second best in the country, as rated by a panel of experts.
And this has seen support flood in from families, schools, businesses, hospital staff, politicians and even Britain’s top heart expert, all backing the campaign to see surgery at Southampton stay.
The level of support has astounded hospital chief Mark Hackett, who hopes the sheer number of signatures will leave health bosses in no doubt about how valued and vital the world-renowned unit is.
Mr Hackett, chief executive of Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have consistently stated how support for the campaign to keep children’s heart surgery in Southampton, particularly the Daily Echo’s Have a Heart petition, has been remarkable, but this achievement takes us to another level – it is truly astounding.
“More than 225,000 people have signed up because they believe quality and excellence take priority above all else when it comes to the care of children with complex heart conditions and we remain hopeful that this resounding message resonates through from Downing Street to the Safe and Sustainable team.”
Despite being ranked the second best in the country our paediatric heart unit is under threat as health chiefs look to cut the UK’s 11 centres down to six or seven.
Southampton was featured in just one of four options which will be put out for public consultation, before the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) makes its final decision.
If Southampton closed, families would be forced to get life-saving treatment in London or Bristol, at units which experts say fell below the “exemplary”
standards that the city boasts.
The tremendous support has also seen the Have a Heart campaign become one of the most successful regional press petitions in recent history.
Lynne Anderson, Newspaper Society communications director, said: “The Southern Daily Echo’s campaign to save the local children’s cardiac care unit is a truly outstanding example of the regional press doing what it does best – campaigning on the issues that matter to its readers and giving them a powerful voice.
“Securing 225,000 signatures is a remarkable effort and one of the largest numbers we are aware of in recent years for a regional press petition.”
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