THE countdown has begun.

In just 12 days it is D-Day – Downing Street Day – for the fight to save children’s heart surgery in Southampton.

On June 22 the Daily Echo and an army of families and hospital staff will take the Have a Heart campaign to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.

Today we can reveal that the number of signatures on the petition being handed in has reached 178,000.

Take Part in the Consultation
Click here to help save the heart unit.
The consultation is what the government will use to evaluate which units it will keep. It is imperative that as many people as possible use this opportunity to say they want 'Option B' which will save Southampton's children's cardiac unit.

With less than two weeks to go before the big day, there is still time to ensure you do your bit to show health bosses and the Prime Minister that the world-class unit at Southampton General Hospital must be saved by boosting the total towards the 200,000 mark.

Families, clinicians, politicians, schools and businesses have all been out in force over the past 16 weeks, leaving hospital bosses overwhelmed by the strength of support.

One family alone has collected 10,000 signatures after making a promise to the unit which saved their little girl’s life.

Five-year-old Kiki Boulton shocked everyone at the hospital when she handed in a huge pile of petitions with more than 10,000 names, including former Saints boss Harry Redknapp.

Southampton General Hospital staff found a 20mm hole in Kiki’s heart. Luckily her condition did not need immediate treatment and Kiki had her operation last month, knowing she was strong enough to cope.

Mum Chanine, from Poole, said: “No amount of thank yous would ever be enough so we decided to show our gratitude by getting out there and collecting 10,000 signatures.

“The unit is such an amazing place and we have just been overwhelmed by the love and care that we have received from everybody here.

“We haven’t done this for our benefit because hopefully Kiki will not need further treatment but we had to take action to ensure this unit is here for families in the future.”

Dr Michael Marsh, medical director of Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This response to the Echo’s Have a Heart petition is phenomenal.

“The trust has received overwhelming support throughout the review and consultation.

“I personally urge everyone who has worked hard on our behalf to ensure they return their petitions to the Daily Echo so we send a resounding message to Number 10 and the review team.”

Despite being ranked the second best in the country, Southampton’s paediatric heart unit is at risk 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 on which the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) will make the final decision.

If Southampton closed, families would be forced to get lifesaving treatment in London or Bristol, at units which experts say fall below the “exemplary” standards that the city boasts.

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