Below is correspondance from HSCB Head of Commissiong, Dean Sullivan
Below is our statement regarding the news that Professional Bodies have not endorsed Safe & Sustainable for Northern Ireland.
Families with children born with congenital heart disease have reacted with dismay and disappointment following the discovery that the Safe & Sustainable guidelines included in the current consultation on the future of children’s heart surgery have not been endorsed by relevant professional bodies for the Northern Ireland area. This is despite the fact that it states in public consultation documents that the standards are “endorsed by professional bodies.”
Children’s Heartbeat Trust Executive Officer Sarah Quinlan said “The guidelines upon which the Ian Kennedy report based their recommendations about the future of children’s heart surgery here and which have formed the basis of the current consultation, have not been endorsed by any medical professional bodies for Northern Ireland. Late last year we wrote to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Surgeons, Paediatric Intensive Care Society, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland. All confirmed that the guidelines are not endorsed as best practice in Northern Ireland, and that support given for the guidelines was for England & Wales only. One organisation, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who represent doctors treating pregnant mothers and newborn babies, indicated that they have not endorsed the guidelines for any UK region.
“The Children’s Heartbeat Trust and clinicians have placed the development of a paediatric heart service which supports the safety of all patients, children, teenagers and adults, including the most vulnerable, at the centre of our work in the current consultation. Key to this is the provision of a safe and accessible service. The fact that current standards specifically set up to provide services in England and Wales have not in fact been endorsed for Northern Ireland continues to undermine the appropriateness of their use in determining the future for our service. The devolved government in Scotland recognised this, and rejected Kennedy’s proposals for Scotland.
“On a range of issues, including abortion and care for the elderly, our Health Minister has made it clear that different circumstances apply to Northern Ireland, and that he will not impose a one-size-fits-all approach. The importance of these differing circumstances has also been clearly understood by all medical bodies, none of whom have endorsed these guidelines for Northern Ireland,” added Sarah.
The consultation document released last year included a number of references to Safe & Sustainable guidelines and the fact they were “endorsed by professional bodies”. Our correspondence with the bodies makes it clear that a number of them medical bodies did not endorse, consider or envisage the application of the standards in a Northern Ireland context. These include:
- Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland which stated: “I can assure you our endorsement as a society applied to England and Wales.”
- Royal College of Surgeons which stated: “The College has not given consideration to the way in which Safe and Sustainable guidelines – originally developed for England & Wales – apply to Northern Ireland.
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which stated: “I am not aware of any request for endorsement of any guidelines developed during the Safe and Sustainable process in the UK.”
- Paediatric Intensive Care Society which stated: “The Safe and Sustainable process was brought about to address concerns in England & Wales.”
- Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health which stated: “Clearly their application in NI would have to be considered in light of practicalities related to geography and location.”
Similar proposals made in England by Sir Ian Kennedy, which would see three units close, have been suspended following the decision of the UK Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, to order an independent review. This review is currently being carried out by renowned keyhole surgery pioneer Lord Ribeiro and is due to report at the end of March.
Children treated in Belfast enjoy extremely high standards of care, endorsed by a Royal College of Surgeons report only last July and managed by clinicians and experts who work closely with colleagues in Dublin and Britain. These links should be strengthened and enhanced with agreed protocols, safeguarding the service for the future.
”We support the Minister’s undertaking that children’s safety is his number one priority in this process and urge him to apply criteria developed for Northern Ireland to patients in Northern Ireland. A one-size-fits all approach does not and will not work,” added Sarah.
Hundreds of toddlers, children and families from across Northern Ireland took to the streets on Sat 2 Feb to safeguard the future provision of children’s heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. The protest assembled outside the hospital where hundreds of children have undergone treatment for congenital heart disease, before marching to the Health & Social Care Board offices at Linenhall Street in the City Centre.
Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland with some 250 births per year, and just under 200 operations and interventions on babies, teenagers, children and adults taking place here each year
The was march was a clear demonstration to the Health Service commissioners that the future safety of children in Northern Ireland relies on the maintenance of heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Belfast. Any steps to remove emergency and planned surgery to England would place lives at risk as well as placing immeasurable emotional and financial strain on families.
The Royal College of Surgeons have stated that children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland is safe. Despite this, Sir Ian Kennedy’s team were invited to Belfast last summer and made a confusing finding that surgery was safe but not sustainable. Findings made by the same team for England & Wales made have been stalled by the UK Minister, meaning that today Northern Irish children here are the only patients anywhere in the UK subject to Sir Ian Kennedy’s recommendations.
Children’s Heartbeat Trust are delighted that the Minister has expressed his wishes that a solution should be found which will see some surgery retained in Northern Ireland. This supports the views of clinical experts, parents and children and we support this call.
The message from all who took part in the March to the Health Service commissioners is that their focus should be to ensure this happens through the strengthening of provision in Belfast as part of an all-Ireland surgical network.
Our HANDS UP Campaign March is now starting an hour earlier than originally schdeuled – at 11AM from the doors of the RBHSC – Please arrive from 10.45am so we can start promptly and please spread the word about the earlier staring time. Thanks!
We have organised a HANDS UP Campaign update meeting on Sunday 27 January at 6.30pm in the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim.
The aim of this meeting is to keep everyone up to date with any recent developments in the campaign and highlight what our next steps are. All are welcome, and if you can’t get a babysitter feel free to bring the kids along – we will have an entertainer on hand to help keep them amused!
Our HANDS UP Demonstration March has been rescheduled for Sat 2 February – 11AM from RBHSC to Linenhall St
Please aim to arrive for 10.45am as we plan to leave promptly at 11am.
As before we will be putting on buses to bring participants down from across Northern Ireland. The buses will be coming from Enniskillen, Craigavon and L/Derry. To ensure a seat on the bus for you and your family please contact
Enniskillen – pick up Ballygalley r’about – pick up Portadown : Jennifer Keys 07745068571
L/Derry – pick up Dungiven – pick up Dunsilly r’about: Claire Ball 07817620831
Craigavon – pick up Lisburn: Mary Gowdy 07762317335
If there are other buses needed from a different area let us know and we will try and ensure that all those who what to come along and demonstrate for our safe children’s surgery in Belfast can!