Kids’ heart care will be debated in city

THE people of Londonderry will have a chance to have their say on the future of kids’ cardiac care in Northern Ireland at the end of the month.

The father of a young Londonderry lad who underwent life-saving heart surgery in 2004 aged just three months recently told the Sentinel that the potential closure of the Clark Clinic in the Royal was an awful prospect but that he feared “personal things in life mean nothing to the bureaucrats looking to save a few quid.”

Now members of the Londonderry public are being asked to come along to the Everglades Hotel on Monday, November 26, at 8pm to have their say.

As part of an ongoing consultation process, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), in conjunction with a Working Group set up to develop a post-consultation document, are seeking views on how Paediatric Cardiac Surgery should be commissioned, potential service model options, and the criteria against which the service model options should be assessed.

Speaking to the Sentinel last month Lincoln Courts resident Neil Bronze stressed the vital difference kids cardiac services had made for his family.

He expressed concern that the Clark Clinic in the Royal in Belfast could close under the proposals.

He told the Sentinel how staff at the Clark Clinic had been his family’s mainstay for the “four months of hell when our world fell apart” when his boy Lewis underwent open heart surgery to save his life.

Mr Bronze voiced his concerns following the publication by the HSCB of a report on Paediatric Congenital Cardiac Services that recommended potential safety risks be addressed within a period of six months.

The 12-week period of consultation on the potential shake-up will end on Friday, December 21, 2012, but a campaign has already been launched to retain children’s cardiac surgery at the Clark Clinic.

“I think its awful that there’s a distinct possibility of the removal of children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Bronze.

“The life saving actions and after care that Lewis received from the Clark Clinic, and indeed the support we received as a family unit from all concerned, from the heart surgeon, the hospital specialists and paediatricians, right down to the nurses and auxiliary staff and even the ward cleaners, was immense during what can only be described as ‘the four months of hell when our world fell apart.’”

HSCB Director of Commissioning and Chair of the Working Group, Mr Dean Sullivan, said it was important that everyone with an interest in the future of children’s cardiac surgery has the opportunity to have their say.

Mr Sullivan said: “The Health and Social Care Board is committed to securing future arrangements that provide a high quality, safe, sustainable, accessible and timely service for children from Northern Ireland.

“The public meetings are important in ensuring the views of the public and stakeholders are heard and taken into account. They will also provide an opportunity for members of the Working Group to explain aspects of the consultation document and to answer questions.

“We would encourage everyone who wishes to make a contribution to this consultation process to either attend the meetings or respond to the consultation questionnaire.”

The consultation process will run until 5pm on Friday, December 21, 2012. The consultation document and response form can be accessed on the Board’s website at

Following the end of the consultation period, the Working Group will develop a post-consultation document, incorporating an analysis of responses for consideration by the Minister.

The Minister is expected to make a decision on the future model for provision of paediatric cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology for the population of Northern Ireland in early 2013.

Mr Bronze, however, expressed a fear likely to be prevalent amongst many of those dependent on the local heart surgery.

“Unfortunately, the personal things in life mean nothing to the bureaucrats looking to save a few quid. I wonder would they view things differently if God forbid, they ever had to go through it.”