TWO of Southampton’s heart experts have been chosen to help lead the country’s cardiac services – proving the high calibre of expertise the city’s heart unit boasts.

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The prestigious national appointments for two of Southampton General Hospital’s heart doctors has come as a real boost to the fight to save children’s heart surgery in the city, with just two days before we head to Downing Street with more than 190,000 signatures on the Have a Heart petition.

In their new prominent roles, Dr Iain Simpson and Dr Tony Salmon will help to shape and develop children’s and adult cardiac services across the UK over the next few years.

Hampshire MP Dr Julian Lewis hopes these top two appointments will highlight to health bosses who have put children’s heart surgery at risk in Southampton the sheer excellence and world-renowned reputation the city has when it comes to providing the best care for cardiac patients.

The specialist paediatric centre at Southampton is under threat, despite being ranked the second best in the country.

Southampton was featured in just one of four options which have been put out for a four-month public consultation, ending on July 1, before the joint committee of Primary Care Trusts makes its final decision by the end of the year.

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.

Dr Lewis said: “These appointments underline with impeccable timing the overall reputation of Southampton as a top flight centre of excellence for heart surgery.

“Let us hope that the point is well taken by the people conducting the review into the future of the children’s heart unit.”

Consultant cardiologist Dr Simpson will serve a year as president elect of the British Cardiovascular Society before taking on a full three-year term.

Dr Salmon, a consultant congenital cardiologist, begins a two-year period as president of the British Congenital Cardiac Association in November, providing a voice for specialist working in paediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery, adult congenital heart disease and foetal cardiology.

In his role, Dr Simpson will act as the group’s main link with ministers and the Department of Health, the royal colleges, the British Heart Foundation and cardiac societies across Europe.

Dr Simpson said: “It is a measure of Southampton’s clinical leadership that we have been elected by our colleagues to take the specialty forward nationally.”

The hospital has a long history as being home to some of the best names in heart services including past presidents of the British Congenital Cardiac Association, Dr Barry Keeton, the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Jim Monro, and the British Cardiovascular Society, Dr Huon Gray.