Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Kids' heart network an uplifting success

In 2015 the then health ministers on both sides of the border, Jim Wells at Stormont and Leo Varadkar at Leinster House, took a joint decision which immeasurably improved the lives of families whose children suffer from serious heart conditions
In 2015 the then health ministers on both sides of the border, Jim Wells at Stormont and Leo Varadkar at Leinster House, took a joint decision which immeasurably improved the lives of families whose children suffer from serious heart conditions

Editor's Viewpoint

In 2015 the then health ministers on both sides of the border, Jim Wells at Stormont and Leo Varadkar at Leinster House, took a joint decision which immeasurably improved the lives of families whose children suffer from serious heart conditions.

They agreed to implement in full a report from an international expert on how services for children and young people with congenital heart disease (CHD) should be delivered.

It was agreed that there were insufficient numbers of such patients in Northern Ireland to warrant the continuation of complex surgery in Belfast and that in future operations should be carried out in Dublin.

However, other services pre and post-operation, including diagnostics and imaging, would continue to be delivered on this side of the border.

Creating the All-Island CHD Network was a monumental task, but thanks to remarkable cooperation, it got off the ground.

The net result has been improved services for children throughout the island.

Doctors hope that by the end of next year, no child will have to go to England for complex surgery, apart from transplants.

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Since the formation of the network, more than 420 children and young people from Northern Ireland have had procedures carried out in Dublin.

Around 110 children from the province are diagnosed with CHD annually and some 70 of those go to Dublin for operations. Another 80 have lesser interventions.

While the success of the network has surprised many, those involved are not resting on their laurels.

The opening of a new heart clinic in Belfast, and two new children's hospitals in Dublin and Belfast in the coming years, will create first-class facilities and resources for patients.

Paediatricians with a specialist interest in cardiology will also be placed in a number of hospitals north and south, ensuring care for young patients closer to their homes.

We have heard doomsday predictions about the state of the NHS, and the Republic's health service is also under strain, but the success of the CHD Network is a shining example of what doctors and nurses do so brilliantly on a daily basis.

It is also an example to local politicians of what could be achieved if devolution was restored at Stormont and courageous decisions were taken to improve the lives of desperately ill people.

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