A seriously ill two-year-old girl has been denied urgent surgery by a Birmingham hospital seven times in the past month.

Lily Cater has a rare heart defect - pulmonary atresia - which is a life-threatening condition linked to the under-development of the heart, which as a result has to work harder to pump blood around her body. However Lily, who also has a hole in her heart, is not expected to reach the age of five if she does not have the vital surgery.

Mother-of-four Michala Cater, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, initially took her daughter to Leeds Royal Infirmary where she was listed as an urgent case, but then approached doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital for a second opinion.

Yesterday the hospital stated Lily, who celebrated her second birthday this week, had only been admitted once and that her operation had only been cancelled on one occasion.

However her mother explained the hospital had called on six other occasions to advise her Lily could be on that day's operating list, only to be told hours later on each occasion none of their 19 specialist intensive care beds were available.

Mrs Cater, an accounts manager, said: "Every time we get a date for an operation we get mentally prepared, pack our bags and make all the arrangements - and then it doesn't happen."

One in five children who undergo this procedure - which involves inserting a plastic tube to connect an unused artery to create another channel for the blood flow, and closing the hole in her heart - do not survive the operation.

A Birmingham Children's Hospital spokesman said: "We understand this is very stressful for both Lily and her family but it is impossible for the trust to absolutely guarantee that any operation will not be cancelled at short notice.

"However, every effort will be made to ensure that Lily's operation proceeds as soon as possible without any further delay.