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Campaign to save Southampton's cardiac unit reaches Downing Street
Daily Echo reporter Melanie Adams (far right)and campaigners take the Have A Heart petition to Downing Street
ARMED with 232,733 signatures, the Daily Echo and an army of campaigners have taken the fight to save children’s heart surgery at Southampton to the doorstep of Number 10.
At 1pm we knocked on the famous door and delivered ten boxes packed with Have a Heart petitions, with the hope of driving home the message to the Prime Minister and his government that the future of Southampton General Hospital’s specialist unit must be saved.
But this does not mean that the fight is over.
There are still nine days to go before the end of the consultation and our MPs have vowed to keep fighting in the corridors of power to ensure the right decision is made at the end of this year.
Just 24 hours after we drop off the petitions to David Cameron, the MP for Winchester and Chandlers Ford, Steve Brine, has secured a three-hour debate in the House of Commons, into the review.
Mr Brine said: “MPs across the House are worried about this process and it is excellent that the issues will be debated in full on the floor of the House of Commons itself.
“I hope the review team will listen very carefully to the arguments put forward and act appropriately to ensure public confidence is not further eroded.”
Also at Downing Street was Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, who believes it is imperative that she and her colleagues ensure that government are aware of the campaign.
She said: “A total of 232,000 signatures is a phenomenal number but it is not just about the support, it is also about the individual stories and how strongly parents and former patients feel about this unit.
“It is imperative that we as MPs today, Thursday and in the final few days of the consultation process, convey the message that if surgery at Southampton is stopped it would be a ludicrous conclusion of a review that is supposed to be about safety.
“Every time we see the Prime Minister and the Health Minister we are all pushing this message.”
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.
John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, added: “The petition is hugely important but I am going to continue to bombard ministers with different aspects of the case, telling them why so many people are unhappy about the way the consultation has been conducted, to ensure all factors have been properly taken into account.
“This is not a selfish attitude.
We are not just fighting this because it happens to be in Southampton, this about making sure that children right across the country have got the chance to be treated at one of the best hospital units in the country.”
• Since this story was first printed, more signatures have been received by the Daily Echo, taking the final total to over 250,000.