ON the day hundreds of campaigners were due to take to the streets to save children’s heart surgery in Southampton, the Daily Echo can reveal that more than 100,000 people are backing their fight.

An incredible 110,000 people across the south have now signed the Daily Echo’s Have a Heart petition in just 13 weeks, sending a clear message to visiting health bosses how vital and valued the threatened unit is.

Today some of those campaigners were due to pack Guildhall Square, standing side by side with celebrity couple Sarah Parish and James Murray, hospital bosses and politicians at a mass rally to show the strength of support for the world-class unit.

The mass protest will give those unable to get inside the two public meetings at the Guildhall to have their say and help ensure that the specialist surgical team are there to mend the tiny hearts of our children in the future.

Dad Paul Prior, whose nine-year-old son Aaron was born with a serious heart defect, is hoping as many families as possible will take part in the rally, which will include activities to keep youngsters entertained.

He said: “From a parent’s point of view it is vital that everyone seizes this opportunity to show health bosses how strong the feeling is to keep these services in Southampton.

“As we see it this is the last opportunity for people of Southampton to have a voice and show how passionate we are about our world-class unit.

“The issue is a serious one but we are trying to combine this with a family atmosphere because we believe it is important to ensure the children have their chance to be part of it.

“Getting 110,000 signatures is absolutely phenomenal. At the beginning 100,000 seemed a long way off, so to reach that and see it still climbing is absolutely fantastic and testament to our campaign.

“Everyone who has taken the time to put their name on the Daily Echo’s petition has done their little bit to try and secure services in Southampton.”

Despite being ranked the second best in the country our paediatric heart unit is u n d e r t h r e a t 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.

Health bosses will face questions from 600 people at two public meetings this afternoon, while the rally starts outside at 4pm.

Visit the government consultation website

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

Download the Have a Heart petition

Print out, get as many signatures as you can and return to us.
Daily Echo: Have a Heart poster

Download the Have a Heart poster

Print out our A4 sized Have a Heart poster