All-island heart services solution to be explored

October 2, 2012

By Christine Keighery

Stormont Health Minister, Edwin Poots confirmed last week that he has been exploring the provision of child heart surgery on an All-Ireland basis with his Dublin counterpart, James Reilly.

The issue of retaining child heart surgery in Belfast has concerned the public throughout the province, with more than 50,000 people signing a petition calling for the vital service to remain there.

Earlier this year a UK-wide review found that, although the service at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is safe, it is not sustainable.

The cessation of the service in Belfast could mean that children would have to travel to England for life saving treatment.

Mr Poots told the assembly last week that he could not ignore the views of eminent health professionals who had concluded the service was not sustainable, but added that he believed a cross-border network for child heart surgery would be advantageous for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The minister said he wanted to be aware of all available options before coming to any decision.

Following the motion for exploration being passed with the unanimous support of the Assembly, Newry and Armagh MLA, Mickey Brady who sits on the Health Committee said:

“The Health Committee brought the motion to the Assembly calling on the Minister to fully explore an all-island solution with Dublin so that patients could avail of vital heart services on the island of Ireland.

“Sending patients to England for surgery would only place additional strain on the health budget and cause undue stress to families and patients.

“It is good news that there is complete support in the Assembly for an all-island solution to be explored and that the minister will initiate that.

“The option of a first class all-island service providing the necessary care and treatment for children with serious heart problems is a goal that can not be shunned for party political reasons.”