Dublin heart surgery switch urged
A team of international experts has recommended that children's cardiac surgery in Northern Ireland should move to Dublin.
The International Working Group (IWG) reached its conclusion because of an insufficient number of patients in Belfast.
Hundreds of families have campaigned for the service to be retained in Belfast.
A spokeswoman for Stormont health minister Edwin Poots said: "He will make a written statement to the Assembly stating that the IWG has recommended that children's heart surgery and interventional cardiology should cease to be delivered in the Belfast Trust.
"The IWG has reached this conclusion because of an insufficient volume of patients."
The US experts considered whether a two-centre service based in Dublin and Belfast was feasible in the long-term.
Congenital heart conditions are rare, particularly given Northern Ireland's much smaller population. Doctors in Great Britain are seeing 300-500 cases a year compared to 60 surgeries last year in Belfast, which can raise problems for doctors maintaining their skills through regular work.
Sharing resources and workload with Dublin would increase the number of potential patients and make a specialist service on the island sustainable.
Families in Northern Ireland have expressed concern that this would lead to centralisation of treatment in Dublin, entailing additional travel.
The spokeswoman added: "The minister told (assembly) members that the IWG had presented its report to both his department and to the department for health in the Republic.
"Both departments are currently considering the report and the minister said he would expect to be able to announce the IWG's full recommendations together with his counterpart in the Republic soon."