Sharon Coyle, chief executive of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said the announcement that the future of the Leeds General Infirmary unit was secure meant the campaign was a huge success.
In a letter to supporters, she said: “The Save Our Surgery (SOS) campaign has made a fundamental difference to people’s lives both now and in the future.
“The overall aim was to secure the care for generations to come, and as we now know the Leeds Heart Unit will be a designated Surgical Centre, it appears we have succeeded.
“The broad range of support for the SOS Campaign was quite unprecedented and ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem enough.”
Earlier this month it was revealed that the Children’s Heart Surgery unit in Leeds would be one of 10 hospitals nationally continuing to operate on children and adults, as long as new care standards are met.
NHS England published the outcome of the latest review of congenital heart surgery for adults and children, with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust one of the trusts to be supported with its plans to meet the new requirements.
The news came as a huge relief to campaigners and families, who spent years fighting to keep the unit open, backed by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Years of controversy had surrounded the national shake-up which put the unit under threat, and the issue was the subject of a High Court case. After the announcement, campaigners said they had been “completely vindicated.”
Ms Coyle, from the LGI-based charity, said she had written the open letter to pay tribute to all those who helped secure the future of the unit.
She said that her overwhelming tribute went to the “dignified, loyal and strong” families of patients at the unit.
“I will never forget our parent campaigners ringing out their messages in all the regions we support.
“Throughout all this, you stuck by us, and you remained overwhelmingly committed.
“You continued to believe in your heart unit despite the negativity that was coming through the national media. Your support never waned, and for this, we salute you.”
Among the other supporters highlighted are:
MPs from all parties and regional councillors, in particular, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which was “nothing but exceptional”.
Doctors and medical staff who spoke up while under immense pressure. Ms Coyle said: “They attended evening and weekend campaign meetings - often forsaking time with their families.”
The lawyers, who often worked on the case pro-bono.
Directors of Save our Surgery Limited and the board of CHSF.
*Fundraising is underway to create a revolutionary new operating theatre for children’s heart surgery.
The Keeping the Beat appeal aims to raise £500,000 in the next two years to add to £1.25m contributed by charity the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).
The new theatre at Leeds General Infirmary will enable the hospital to fully meet new standards for heart surgery which are being imposed nationally.
It will be used for open heart surgery and minimally invasive heart procedures, and will cut waiting times, shorten recovery times and enable surgeons and cardiologists to undertake combined procedures and reduce the need for return surgery.
Supporters of the appeal so far have included the family of one-year-old Albie Carroll, from Bingley. They raised over £30,000 after the tot had major heart surgery in Leeds last year.
A trip to the toilet will add to the coffers as the Geberit AquaClean Tour comes to Leeds on July 30 and 31. For everyone who tries out the hi-tech shower toilet, the firm will donate £1 to the Keeping the Beat appeal.
CHSF corporate fundraiser Ellie Brown said: “It sounded like a mad idea to begin with, but we think it’s a great way to raise funds for our worthy cause and of course get people to see and try out a new technology. The more people that take part the more we can help Keeping The Beat.”
Donate via chsf.org.uk, or text BEAT02 £10 to 70070.