Alistair Campbell enters the battle to save Leicester's Glenfield Hospital heart unit
Former Labour party spin doctor Alistair Campbell has joined the fight to save children's heart services at Glenfield Hospital.
The ex-City of Leicester Boys' Grammar School pupil has highlighted the heart unit's plight on his blog.
In a post on Sunday, Mr Campbell said he had entered into the debate after "cajoling" by Kathryn Batten, a politics teacher from Winchester, whose brother-in-law works at Glenfield Hospital.
It follows a national review of children's heart surgery which in July opted to cut from 11 to seven the number of hospitals in England providing surgery for children born with heart problems.
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The service at Glenfield is one of four earmarked for closure, with plans for young patients to be transferred to Birmingham for surgery.
The specialist Ecmo – extra corporeal membrane oxygenation – treatment, which puts oxygen into patients' blood, will also move to Birmingham.
Mr Campbell wrote: "Thankfully, the number of children likely to require heart surgery is small. But to those it affects, nothing could be more important.
"So with all the other big stuff going on politically, particularly with regard to the economy, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley may think he can get through this without quite the trouble he had over earlier reform plans.
"But it is clear there are concerns, not just about the issue, but also the way in which his department is handling it."
His words are attached to a guest blog Ms Batten has posted on his website.
In her blog, Ms Batten questions the age of data used to calculate the number of operations needed for children born with heart problems, as well as predictions of an increase in the numbers over the next 20 years.
One of the campaigners, Adam Tansey, from Burbage, said: "It is really positive that someone such as Alistair Campbell is prepared to put this on his website.
"Knowing someone like this is on board shows people are really starting to listen and to pay attention to concerns we have raised."
Mr Tansey, whose son, Albert, was born with half a heart, said: "This matter is not going away. Our local MPs need to know more about it and we must keep up the public pressure."
An online petition set up at the beginning of July has now been signed by nearly 63,500 people.
If the number reaches 100,000, it could trigger a debate in the House of Commons.
Members of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland health scrutiny committee are meeting today to decide the grounds for asking the Health Secretary to refer the decision to his Independent Reconfiguration Panel for advice on the changes.
To read Mr Campblell's blog in full, go to the address below on click on the "blog" tab.