The Children’s Heartbeat Trust has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health that agreement has been reached between officials and Dublin surgeons to provide support and surgical cover which allows congenital heart surgery to continue in Belfast, and that an all island assessment of children’s heart surgical service has been commissioned.
Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer, Children’s Heartbeat Trust, said: “We welcome this assessment which is specifically tailored to address the needs of children and adults with congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland, and which is being delivered on behalf of both governments.
“The strength and bravery of families of children with congenital heart disease throughout this campaign has been tremendous and without their support and campaigning today’s agreement would not have happened. The work of the Minister and doctors who saw the process through to this point, as well as many the 91 MLAs who signed the pledge has refocused the process on delivering for Northern Ireland children.” said Sarah.
Outlining the overwhelming support from expert clinicians in Northern Ireland for the all-Island network, Sarah said: “Along with specialist clinicians in Belfast and families, the Children’s Heartbeat Trust have argued from the beginning of this long process that the continuation of surgery in Belfast was feasible if it was considered as part of an all-island network.”
Earlier this year, MLAs from every constituency and every party signed a pledge to keep children’s heart surgery in Belfast. Since the campaign started over 120,000 people signed an online petition to save surgery, and hundreds of people have taken to the streets, written letters to MLAs and held meetings in support of retaining surgery in Belfast.
The new review follows a process initiated by the PHA and HSCB which saw the now defunct England & Wales-based Safe & Sustainable team invited to Northern Ireland.
“Throughout this process we have supported the Health Minister’s efforts to retain children’s cardiac surgery in Belfast. The flawed process in England & Wales, whose decisions were overturned by the High Court and then rejected by the Health Secretary, dominated much of the thinking of the HSBC & Public Health. This new assessment hopefully will not repeat the mistakes in the past, with an all-Island focus now serving as our starting point for planning and commissioning, “she added.