THE LOSS of children’s heart surgery in Southampton would have a serious impact on the city’s top performing intensive care unit for youngsters, hospital bosses have warned.

Southampton General Hospital’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) has one of the lowest mortality rates in the country despite treating some of the south’s most poorly children.

But this outstanding record could be in jeopardy if the children’s cardiac unit, which makes up 39 per cent of PICU’s admissions, loses its surgical status despite being ranked the second best in the country.

Dr Iain Macintosh, director of PICU, joined the Daily Echo as our 240,094-signature Have a Heart petition was taken to Downing Street last week, and warned of the dangers of losing such a specialist unit.

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He said: “Our standardised mortality rate has been one of the lowest in the country for several years and the lowest of all the units in this assessment.

“Delivering intensive care to complex cardiac surgical patients day in and day out improves the skills of everyone involved, to the benefit of non-cardiac patients as well.

“If we lost cardiac surgery these patients would need to go somewhere else and 40 per cent of our beds would close, leaving seven to eight beds.

“This would mean losing the staff that support these beds.

We would then be below the critical mass of resource that we need to run a proper retrieval service.

“We would lose our coveted training status and therefore would not attract quality middle grade doctors.

“More patients from this region would need to wait to be transferred by Bristol or London teams or would need to be transported out of region to these centres.

“For patients travelling from the Isle of Wight, they would now have the longest travel times in the country and potentially to centres of less quality than Southampton.

“In summary, there will be an immediate impact as our capacity to perform certain tasks diminishes. There will also be the less predictable and more insidious effect of dismantling a highly performing unit in the hope that what was removed does not turn out to be vital to its function.”

Terri Pragnell, joined the Friends of PICU, after her son William was treated there.

She said: “William didn’t have a heart defect but I am still backing this campaign because I know how vital the heart unit is to the hospital.

“If the cardiac unit closed it wouldn’t just affect cardiac patients, any child needing intensive care would ultimately suffer because the there would be fewer beds and resources.”