The Southern Daily Echo launched its Have a Heart campaign to save the children’s cardiac care unit at Southampton General Hospital, which was put under threat after health bosses launched a review of the specialist centres – which could see 11 units nationally cut to six or seven.
In response, the Echo started its drive to save the unit, which has collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition, half of which were collected in just five days last week as it gained momentum.
It has also received widespread backing from businesses, politicians and charities, while other newspapers in the catchment area for the hospital have also lent their support, including the Guernsey Press.
Echo editor Ian Murray said: “Our campaign has obviously touched a nerve with local people, whether they have been involved with the heart unit at Southampton General Hospital or not.
“The hospital cardiac unit has a world-wide reputation and to see it threatened with closure is pure madness.
“It’s a pride issue for the city region, but it also makes sense to keep these vital services here on the south coast.”
Families whose children have received support from the unit have also rallied to support the cause, including the Echo’s heritage and shipping editor Keith Hamilton, whose grandson Max underwent lifesaving surgery there.
To support the campaign, medical staff at the unit held a 12-hour ‘Twitterthon’ to highlight the work they do.
The four-month consultation by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts into children’s heart units closes on 1 July.