14/10/2014

Children's Heart Surgery To Cease

Children's heart surgery in Northern Ireland will be transferred from Belfast to Dublin as part of a new all-Ireland approach, Health Minister Jim Wells has said. The announcement follows the publication of the Report of the International Working Group (IWG) on the Assessment of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery for Congenital Heart Disease in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The news means that all surgery in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital will cease.

Jim Wells and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar issued a joint policy statement today detailing the announcement.

Jim Wells said: "The proposed model is absolutely focussed on patient care and safety, and both my predecessor and I have been motivated throughout this work by the desire to provide the best possible standard of care for the people of Northern Ireland. The simple reality is that we cannot reach these standards alone, this is the clear message coming from the work of the IWG, and I cannot, and indeed will not, ignore their expertise and experience in reaching this view. Patient safety is central to that decision."

Mr Varadkar said: "I am very grateful to the expert International Working Group for their time and expertise in preparing the report. The recommendations of the report provide a clear and objective mandate to develop an integrated networked service for the benefit of all children and young people with congenital heart disease and their families on the island of Ireland."

The Minister also noted the management team and clinicians in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin have regularly provided surgical and cardiology support to their counterparts in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

"I am sure that the close professional and collegial relationships developed between those involved in the care of these vulnerable patients will provide a stable basis for the development of an all-Island networked service, as envisaged in the Report."

Dr John Mayer Jr., Senior Associate in Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and chair of the (IWG), said: "Through our engagement with clinicians, parents, managers and political leaders in Belfast and Dublin, we recognised a real willingness to make an all-island solution work. Evidence from other countries tells us that the concentration of surgical and interventional paediatric congenital cardiac cases is associated with improved outcomes for patients and we believe that this model will deliver improved outcomes for children in both jurisdictions."

(IT/MH)

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