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A NATIONAL consultation about the future of children’s congenital heart services has revealed that professionals want to keep Southampton’s centre open.

The NHS consultation – which asked people in England to share their views on proposals to pool surgical expertise into fewer larger centres – received more than 75,000 responses.

It found that the most popular option with individuals was to close the Southampton centre, but organisations responding to the consultation preferred to keep this unit open.

The majority of personal respondents would instead see the new centres located in Newcastle, Liverpool, Leicester, Birmingham and Bristol – however organisations favoured an option proposing centres in Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Southampton.

The final two options, for centres in Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol or Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, received lower levels of support.

The consultation, which ran from March 1 to July 1, also asked people to share their views on the key principles of the review, the development of congenital heart networks to bring care closer to home and new national quality standards.

Nine out of ten responding agreed to the principles of children’s needs coming first, high-quality care, equal treatment, support services for patient and family and cardiac treatment being provided home.

And it is proposed that all specialist surgical centres should meet these standards.

There was also a strong belief among many respondents that quality should be the deciding factor when planning future services.

More than three quarters of respondents also supported proposals to develop congenital heart networks that would deliver care closer to home and there was significant support for proposals that centres no longer providing surgery become children’s cardiology centres.

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts is expected to make a final decision by the end of this year and implementation of any changes is expected to start in 2013.