Campaign To Keep Children's Heart Unit Continues

Almost a quarter of a million people (240,094) have signed a petition in support of keeping Southampton General's childrens cardiac unit open.

It follows a national consultation which ran from 1 March to 1 July 2011, on proposed changes to children's heart services across the country. It was one of thr largest ever carried out by the NHS and people were asked to share their views on proposals to pool surgical expertise into fewer larger centres. Four potential options were put forward for people to consider.

They received more than 75,000 responses -as part of this, Southampton received the most comments – in addition to positive comments about the care received, many respondents also mentioned:

. Its rank as second in the country in the review
. Its location and accessibility for the south of the country (particularly mentioning the Isle of Wight and the Channel islands)
. Its good transport links.

Of the 3,099 comments on Southampton, 3,084 were positive. Southampton was also the hospital that received the most positive comments in the letters and emails submitted. Many respondents referred to its rank as second in the country in the performance review as well as its high standards of care and staff.

Southampton MP John Denham said:

“This report shows that Southampton has the most widespread support across the country, especially here in the South who will suffer enormously if the children’s heart unit in Southampton is closed. The reason for this high support is because Southampton is rated as the second best paediatric heart unit in the country, with excellent levels of patient care and support.  Every parent and guardian wants the highest possible quality for their children’s healthcare, and that’s what they get in Southampton”.

Option A was the option selected by more individuals than any other, although more organisations supported Option B - which is the only option which would see the unit at Southampton General stay open.  As anticipated, support for configuration options was strongly influenced by where people live. There were high levels of responses from people in the East Midlands and South Central regions. Option B was the most widely supported option across the country as a whole, excluding these regions.

Option C received very little support and whilst support for Option D was strong in Yorkshire and Humberside, it received very limited backing elsewhere. Of those respondents who did not express a preference for an option, fewer than 300 people included all eleven centres in their preferred reconfiguration.

People were also asked for their views on the proposal that the number of surgical centres in London should be reduced from three to two.  Around 75% of respondents supported this proposal. The majority of those responding agreed that the proposed centres should be Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and Evelina Children’s Hospital (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust).

Sir Neil McKay CB, Chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said:

 “I would like to thank everyone for giving us their views during the consultation. The scale of the response confirms to me the importance of ensuring excellent NHS care for children with congenital heart disease. I am heartened by the overwhelming support for the quality standards which are the bedrock of the Safe and Sustainable programme. Implementing these new standards will improve the quality of care for children across England. The task for us now is to carefully consider the findings in detail along with other evidence before we reach final decisions later this year.”

The JCPCT is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2011. Implementation of any changes to children’s congenital heart services is expected to start in 2013.  A detailed implementation plan will be developed once a decision has been made.