A decision on the future of the world-class children's heart unit which treats Isle of Wight youngsters has been revealed today.
It has been a long road travelled, but after a review that has lasted three years, the specialist centre at Southampton's General Hospital has been given a reprieve.
A number of other units across England and Wales will close under the NHS review of England's cardiac care services.
Centres of excellence
The review was a bid to concentrate the skills of cardiac surgeons, creating larger centres of excellence.
Southampton will be among them. It had featured in just one of four options considered in the review.
However, earlier this afternoon campaigners learned that all 12 original options, four of which featured Southampton, were being considered.
Other outcomes would have seen the unit closed, making London or Bristol the nearest unit for Island children needing treatment.
On the Island, campaigners are relieved after a noisy campaign and 250,000 signature petition to retain the centre which is rated 2nd best in the country.
They argued that longer distance travel, or travel by air, simply was not an option for poorly Island children.
Today's decision marks the end of a long journey for campaigners, who've been fighting the threat of closure since 2009.
A statement has been released by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust:
We are delighted with the announcement today that the future of children’s heart surgery at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has been guaranteed.
This is a landmark moment for the Southampton and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust partnership, which is now able to continue to deliver a high quality service for children with heart disease in the South of England, while ensuring families in all areas have access to excellent local care.
Throughout the review, the public confirmed that quality outweighed all other criteria when it came to deciding the future of the service and, as one of the country’s leading centres, we are pleased to see this has been reflected in the final decision.
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.”
According to Island MP Andrew Turner, tt was discovered during the consultation that if Southampton were to close, travel times from the Island to other possible centres had been incorrectly calculated because no account had been taken of the time it takes to cross the Solent by ferry.
He said, "This is absolutely the right decision. I know people elsewhere in the country will be disappointed - but the needs of Isle of Wight residents had to be properly taken into account. Travel times from the Island played a significant role in the final decision to keep Southampton open. Being separated from the mainland presents particular challenges and this was recognised by the review team. Southampton is also ranked as the second best centre in the country, after Guys in London – so any decision other than to keep it open would have been perverse.
“It is almost unbelievable that in the preparatory work for this review the fact that the Isle of Wight is an island was overlooked - there is a clue in the name after all! I am afraid this process has caused a great deal of concern and unnecessary worry to the families of very poorly children. If the background research had been done properly closure of the Southampton centre may never even have been suggested. Notwithstanding that, I am glad the review team has looked again at the facts and carefully considered the needs of Island residents into account, albeit rather late in the day. I am very pleased they reached the right conclusion.
“Congratulations are due to Helen Laverty who worked so hard and all the other campaigners on the Island and elsewhere who fought to keep the Southampton centre open.”
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