CHILDREN'S heart surgery in Southampton has been saved.

Health bosses have this afternoon decided to listen to the 250,000 people who signed the Daily Echo's petition to save the surgical unit at Southampton General Hospital.

Campaigners and medical staff from the unit who travelled up to London to hear the decision celebrated the news and were quickly on the phone to call all those in Southampton anxiously awaiting the outcome.

Last February the surgical centre was given just a 25 per cent chance of survival as the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts looked to cut the UK's 11 units down to six or seven.

However after a prolonged campaign during the consultation, that ended with the Daily Echo heading to Downing Street to hand over the 250,000 signatures on the paper's Have a Heart petition, hospital bosses felt the case to keep surgery at Southampton was strongly made.

And just a moment ago they got the news they wanted to hear.

Mark Hackett, chief executive, said: “This is fantastic news for our patients and their families and we have been overwhelmed by the support we have received across the country. We would like to thank all those who supported us throughout the consultation to safeguard this service for future generations.

“In the future, there will no doubt be more national reviews of services and we need to keep quality at the centre of the way we shape, guide and decide location.”

Southampton City Council leader Cllr Richard Williams added: “We are absolutely delighted that the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts has fully recognised the excellence of Southampton’s children’s heart unit and have listened to the justified and logical argument to produce this excellent result.

“Southampton City Council commends the Daily Echo for this important campaign which we fully supported and which without doubt significantly contributed to the trust’s decision to secure our children’s heart unit for the future – well done!

“It’s just a shame we had to go through all this nonsense, but we got the right outcome and a great result for children and young people in this area.”