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English unions last night urged Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells to make the same offer to NHS staff in Northern Ireland

English unions last night urged Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells to make the same offer to NHS staff in Northern Ireland

English unions last night urged Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells to make the same offer to NHS staff in Northern Ireland

There is nothing more important to me than the care provided to our children and ensuring it is high quality, safe and sustainable.

Following my announcement in the Assembly last month, I am today launching a public consultation on the future model for congenital cardiac services here, as recommended by the International Working Group (IWG).

Regrettably, a Belfast paediatric congenital cardiac surgical service is not sustainable.

Northern Ireland's population will never have a sufficient number of children to meet the widely recognised standards for a specialist surgical heart centre. The future model of delivering the surgical element of care in Dublin aims to ensure our children continue to have the best possible healthcare, with the best possible outcomes, so that they have the best chance of leading a happy, healthy life.

It is important to be clear that this is not about saving money - indeed the new model places a greater emphasis on empowering families to shape governance and support services for their children.

The Family Advisory Group will be an essential feature, giving a voice to patients and families and providing early warning of problems with how the system is functioning.

Complementary to the Dublin surgical component is my commitment to develop a congenital cardiology centre of excellence in Belfast.

I want to hear the views of heart patients and their families, clinicians and the wider public. That is why I am urging everyone interested in this area to respond fully to this consultation.

For such a complex issue, my message is simple: we have to get this right. Due to the vulnerability of this service at the Belfast Trust in terms of its sustainability, it would be remiss of me not to address it, and so health authorities are making plans to implement a new service model.

I will, however, await the outcome of the consultation before making my final decision on whether to implement the IWG's recommended approach.

  • Jim Wells is Health Minister

Belfast Telegraph