On Tuesday 3 March the Health Minister Jim Wells MLA told the NI Assembly that he is accepting the recommendations of the IWG and is working with the Republic of Ireland Health Minister Leo Varadkar to establish an all Ireland service.
Sarah Quinlan from the charity said: “We recognise and acknowledge the speed with which the process has moved under the current and previous Health Ministers since the Working Group reported last Autumn. There is still an interim period of up to 15 months while the new all-Island structure is put in place and during that time families still face the upheaval of travelling to England for surgery. Ministers from Belfast and Dublin need to work to reduce that time period as much as possible. We will also be seeking assurances that when emergency surgery is required in Dublin during that interim period it will be available.
“The Minister has also confirmed that the all-island Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Network Board will be comprised of patient representatives, clinicians, service providers and commissioners. Children’s Heartbeat Trust will be represented on that Board and we will continue to represent the views of children and their families. It is positive that there will be family representation at all levels in the new structure. We very much welcome the creation of a Family Liaison Nurses post which will come into effect on the 1st April.
“The Minister for Health’s announced investment of £1.2m must be used to improved the service in Belfast and ensure the development and construction of a Children’s Heart Centre so that the current high standard of care is safeguarded.
“Our overriding priority as we began this campaign was to ensure that the treatment provided to children with congenital heart disease was the most appropriate, clinically and in terms of family support. At the start of this process we were promised an improved service, now we need to see this being delivered without delay.”