“IT is a disgusting waste of money that could have been avoided if we had been listened to.”

Those are the words of campaigners who have been left feeling “gutted”after the Health Secretary suspended the review that saved children’s heart surgery in Southampton from the axe.

It comes a year after the unit thought it had been saved following an extensive consultation process and subsequent legal challenges by other hospitals that face the loss of their heart surgery.

They believe that had they been listened to when the former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley visited the unit at Southampton General Hospital two years ago the whole debacle could have been avoided – saving the NHS the £6m spent so far on the process.

Clinicians, patients and families now face an agonising wait as the future of the unit hangs in the balance once again.

MPs from across Hampshire criticised how the long and drawn out process would impact on morale of staff and cause “catastrophic damage” to the budgets of some trusts.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement in the House of Commons yesterday that he had accepted the findings of the Independent ReviewPanel (IRP) that he had instructed to investigate the decision to close four children’s heart unit in the UK.

It found that the original Safe and Sustainable review was based on “flawed analysis” and raised “serious criticisms” over the whole process, which started five years ago to improve services for youngsters born with heart conditions.

Mr Hunt said that this did not mean that the whole process, which began five years ago, had to be repeated and made it clear that the case for fewer, larger specialist centres was still accepted as the way forward.

But he gave no plan for the way ahead, instead putting the ball back in the court of NHS England – who ran the review – by saying they would have to report back to him by the end of July on the way forward.

He upheld a list of recommendations put forward by the IRP, which included the decision was “undermined”

by the lack of co-ordination with the review of adult services and the impact on intensive care units.

All points that campaigner Sam Prior says were at the beginning of the consultation process when Mr Lansley visited the unit.

Sam’s son Aaron underwent lifesaving operations at the unit and she helped front the Daily Echo’s Have a Heart campaign to save it.

She said: “It makes me sick to the stomach that the recommendations raised by the IRP are things that we raised at the beginning of this process but nobody listened to us.

“This could have all been avoided and the money could have been saved if Andrew Lansley had listened to us when we told him two years ago when he visited our unit that this process was flawed. We asked him to step in then but he said the review had to run its course – it has and now look where we are.

“What does give me hope is that the issues raised by the IRP, like a need to look at adult and antenatal services, are all plus points for Southampton because we have some of the best in the country.

“To have spent £6m on this is absolutely disgusting.”

For all the background and latest to the Daily Echo Have a Heart Campaign click here