ONE OF the country’s top heart experts has spoken of his “regret” over the decision to delay plans to children's heart surgery.

Southampton consultant cardiologist Professor Huon Gray said a delay in implementing changes was “a matter of regret for everyone who wants to improve care for children today”.

It comes after Jeremy Hunt today suspended the review into children’s heart surgery, leaving the future of Southampton’s unit hanging in the balance once again.

Meanwhile NHS England has promised to “lead a rethink” of plans to improve children’s heart surgery and that they will “learn” from the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel (IRP) which strongly criticised their review.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director for NHS England, said: “We welcome the review and NHS England will now study its recommendations in full to learn from them.

“We will institute a new process that recognises the very strong case for redesigning services to meet the demands of the future whilst addressing the legitimate concerns in our local communities.”

Professor Huon added: “We are pleased the IRP endorsed the case for children’s heart surgery and interventional cardiology to be provided only by well-resourced, specialist teams providing round the clock cover, and the use of national standards for commissioning the pathway of care.

“But the Independent Reconfiguration Panel has also raised some really important issues, which mean we cannot implement change immediately. This is matter of regret for everyone who wants to improve care for children today.”