Parents left in limbo on future of heart unit

CAMPAIGNERS Aaron Prior, middle left, with his father Paul, mum Sam and brother Jadon.
CAMPAIGNERS Aaron Prior, middle left, with his father Paul, mum Sam and brother Jadon.
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Bishop James Jones pictured in 2015.

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CAMPAIGNERS have met decision makers at the NHS to urge them to save a children’s heart unit.

As previously reported, the children’s congenital heart services at Southampton General Hospital – the closest for the Portsmouth area – were under threat but had been saved from closure.

A review by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts last July – which cost £6m – concluded expertise was spread too thinly between 10 centres nationally, and should be reduced to six or seven, putting Southampton at risk.

It survived the axe, but campaigners trying to save Leeds General Infirmary’s unit, which was going to close, took the case to the high court.

The judge found in the Leeds group’s favour, and this prompted health secretary Jeremy Hunt to ask an Independent Reconfiguration Panel to assess the original review – which was found to be flawed.

Now NHS England has warned that it could take almost another year to come up with new proposals to reorganise England’s 10 child heart units. The new review will look at reforming children and adults heart units.

Sam Prior, of Elder Close, Locks Heath, is the chairman of Families of Ocean Ward, the group campaigning to save the Southampton unit since 2010.

Her son Aaron has undergone open heart surgery four times.

Mrs Prior was unable to make the meeting in London yesterday, which was an informal catch-up between NHS England and campaign groups across the country.

She is angry that things have not moved forward more quickly.

She said: ‘We’re three years down the line and there has been no implementation of the standards and we’re just in limbo.

‘It’s completely unfair on all the families and the children.’

The children’s heart unit at Southampton is ranked as one of the best in the country.