Surgical Referral Pathway - Paediatrics

The following sections explain what to expect when your child has been referred to Southampton for heart surgery. 

If you require further information or advice after reading this information, please contact the the cardiac team at Southampton or Oxford.

How will the team decide if my child needs heart surgery?

Your child’s cardiologist will speak to you at a clinic appointment or write to you following an investigation  to explain that they feel your child may benefit from an operation.

What happens next?

The cardiac multidisciplinary team meet every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning to formulate and agree individual treatment plans for patients.

Your child’s case will be presented for discussion and their cardiologist will inform you about the various treatment options available in writing and/or during an outpatient appointment.

After your child’s case has been discussed in the meeting, a referral will be made to the cardiac surgeons. You will be contacted when an appointment is available to meet the  surgeon in the outpatient department. This clinic is run each month. 

During this appointment the surgeon will explain in detail why the operation is needed, as well as the associated risks, complications and benefits. You will have an opportunity to discuss any questions you may have with the surgeon.

If you have questions following your appointment with the surgeon, you can contact our children’s cardiac nurse specialists (CCNS). They can discuss how to prepare your child for surgery, their stay in hospital, recovery, future treatment and follow-up appointments.

After you’ve met the surgeon, your child will be added to the surgical waiting list. Patients are listed for surgery in the order of the urgency of their condition.  

When a date is available for your child’s operation you will be contacted by our cardiac surgical coordinators to arrange their admission to hospital. We try to give around a week’s notice of an operation date but you may also be offered a short-notice date. 

Due to emergency cases and availability of intensive care beds, it is sometimes necessary to cancel an operation at short notice (days or hours before an operation). We know that this can be difficult experience for families and we will try to give you as much notice as possible if we need to cancel your child’s operation.

Get in touch

If you need to contact us about your child’s surgery date, please contact our congenital cardiac coordinators on 023 8120 5382.

If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms whilst they are on the surgical waiting list, please contact your child’s cardiac nurse specialist team.

Source: University Hospital Southampton. Updated Jan 2023.

What happens during an admission for heart surgery?

Your child will be admitted to Ocean Ward the day before their operation.

They will have an ECHO (heart scan), ECG, blood tests and a cannula (a small tube placed into a vein) inserted.

You will have an opportunity to meet the surgeon and anaesthetist who will care for your child during their operation.

On the day of the operation, you will be able to wait on Ocean Ward whilst your child has their operation. Your child’s surgeon will come and see you following the operation and you will then be taken to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) to see your child.

Your child will return to Ocean Ward when they are ready to be discharged from PICU. 

More information about Ocean Ward and your child’s recovery from heart surgery can be found here:



One parent or carer is able to sleep on Ocean Ward with their child during an admission.

We can provide accommodation for another parent or carer at Ronald Macdonald House (subject to availability) which is located on the hospital site a few minutes walk from the ward. 

You will be able to stay in Ronald Macdonald House or in accommodation adjacent to PICU when your child is in the intensive care unit.

Due to COVID-19 there continue to be visiting restrictions in place for parents and other visitors in Southampton Children’s Hospital. 

Please visit the main children’s hospital website to view the current restrictions in place or contact the cardiac nurse specialist team for more information.

Preparing your child for heart surgery.

Preparing children for a surgical procedure can be a very stressful time and talking about surgery can be difficult, but preparation before admission helps most children gain a sense of control through understanding.

It is important parents and carers understand as much as possible about a planned hospital admission, otherwise it can be difficult to confidently prepare your child. The cardiac nurse specialist team at Southampton are always happy to discuss what to expect during an admission for surgery.

It is important children understand that they are coming into hospital and why in a way they can understand. We have developed some age-related guidelines that may be useful, while our charity partners Little Hearts Matter have produced a detailed guide on preparing for admission to hospital which can be very helpful.

If you child is waiting to have a procedure, you may find it helpful to red the information on our preparing your child for a procedure page.

The following resources may also be helpful and can be accessed via the links below:

Sammy’s Heart Operation (BHF, aimed at 7-11 year olds).

My Heart Op (BHF, aimed at 13-19 year olds).

Common concerns relate to anaesthesia (video) and blood tests (video). The play and psychology team recommend  viewing the videos available via the links in brackets to help you prepare your child. 



Lindsay is our play leader on E1. She works as part of a team of play leaders and specialist who are experienced in supporting children through hospital admissions.

Preparing through play.

Our play and psychology team have prepared a useful guide to help you prepare your child for heart surgery or another procedure.

We have a team of play specialists, a youth worker and psychologists who work alongside our medical team and are often asked to meet with children and their families to prepare them for visits to the hospital.

We are also able to access support from a  specialist nurse who can work children with a diagnosis of autism or a learning disability before and during a hospital visit.

If you feel your child or young person would benefit from support before a hospital admission, please contact the cardiac nurse specialists.

Play Specialists

While in hospital, a team of play specialists provide play activities for inpatients, either in the playroom or at their bedsides. They can help to prepare children for procedures using play therapy, enabling them to act out their anxieties and develop ways of coping. Play specialists can also provide pre-admission visits and practice sessions for some medical procedures before admission.

They also organise visits from dedicated PAT (Pets as Therapy) dogs which you can find out more about and view an image gallery of on Facebook