ONE of Britain’s best-known celebrity couples, Sarah Parish and James Murray, have made a passionate plea to safeguard the future of Southampton’s prestigious children’s heart unit.

Their voices have joined the increasing public outcry against plans, which threaten the closure of this national centre of excellence at the city’s General Hospital.

The two actors, who live in Hampshire, have combined with more than 50,000 other local people who have also put their weight behind the Daily Echo Have a Heart campaign demanding that surgery on Ocean Ward should not close under proposed, NHS “efficiency’’ plans.

Sarah and James, both stars of television and cinema, have made a direct appeal to keep the specialist heart facility open, after suffering the personal anguish of losing their eightmonth- old daughter, Ella-Jayne, through a rare heart condition.

Both husband and wife described the threat to children’s heart surgery as “truly shocking’’, despite a recent official survey, which ranked the Southampton unit second best in the whole of the UK.

In a specially filmed video clip, Sarah and James urge the public to voice its opposition to the restructuring.

If surgery at Southampton is stopped, seriously ill children, needing urgent heart treatment, together with their distressed parents, would be forced to travel as far away as Bristol or London, places, which experts say, fall below the “exemplary” standards Southampton boasts.

Sarah, the star of programmes such as Peak Practice, Hearts and Bones, Cutting It, Doctor Who, Mistresses, Merlin and the ITV medical drama, Monroe, said: “The quality of care in the children’s heart hospital is outstanding and is currently rated the second best in the country.’’ James, whose credits include the hit television series, Cutting It, Primeval, and Chaos, added: “For the Government to say it is prepared to consider closing a centre like this is truly shocking and the cost to children in the south would be very, great indeed.

“We will both be fighting to make sure Southampton General Hospital continues as a children’s heart hospital.’’ Sarah and James are also involved in raising £100,000 for the children’s intensive care unit at the hospital, in memory of Ella-Jayne.

The couple said: “The Southampton team was directly responsible for giving Ella-Jayne the opportunity to come home and enjoy life with her mum and dad before her passing.

“All donations will go towards financing an inhouse counsellor for the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to support parents, siblings, and families who, like us have, or had, a child in PICU.’’ Since the Daily Echo started its Have A Heart campaign more than 50,000 people have already put their signatures to a protest petition.

Daily Echo: Daily Echo Have a Heart Campaign to save paediatric heart surgery in Southampton

Download the Have a Heart petition form

Print it out, get as many signatures as you can and send it to Have a Heart, Southern Daily Echo, Test lane, Redbridge, Southampton, SO16 9JX
Daily Echo: Have a Heart poster

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