Children’s heart services review could mean Antrim families having to travel to England
A LOCAL mother has hit out at a health review which has claimed children’s congenital heart services in Northern Ireland are no longer sustainable.
Katie Boyd from Templepatrick said that as a result of the review, families would be forced to travel to England for treatment, only adding to their distress.
Katie’s son Ollie was diagnosed with a heart problem when he was born and had to undergo specialist treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
She warned that forcing parents to travel to England would only add to their trauma.
“Having experienced the initial shock and trauma of diagnosis, families are now being told that their only option may be to travel to England for treatment,” Katie said.
She added: “This will add to the distress and discomfort already being experienced by children and families and presents a significant financial challenge for many.”
Katie, who is Chair of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust’s County Antrim Support Group, warned that if the mother is unfit to travel to England with her baby, then this could lead to long periods of mother and new born child being separated.
She said: “I had Ollie in Dundonald but when a problem was detected he was taken to the Royal, I had just had a caesarean section so I wasn’t allowed to travel five minutes down the road to the Royal.
“Now imagine if Ollie had been taken to England, I wouldn’t have been able to travel that far for at least a week. A new born separated from its mother for a week is nothing short of crazy.”
Katie also warned that moving the treatment to England would also separate mother and child from family and friends, taking them away from the vital support they offer at such a difficult time.
“Although family and friends couldn’t come onto the ward, I was able to come down and meet them in the canteen for a coffee,” Katie said.
She added: “Those 10 minutes would help me get my head cleared and provided support that was really needed; if we had been in England however this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Katie also warned that Northern Ireland’s Health Service as a whole could by these proposals: “We want to attract the best doctors and nurses to come and work in Northern Ireland, this won’t happen if we continue to close and reduce facilities.”
Local parents of children with congenital heart disease, along with the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, met with officials from the Public Health Agency following the publication of
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the Safe & Sustainable Review into Pediatric Congenital Heart Services in Northern Ireland last week.
Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer, said: “The report and the accompanying statement from the Health Minister introduces uncertainty into the future provision of congenital heart disease services locally.
“The review team has concluded that pediatric cardiac surgery is not sustainable in Belfast and should cease. This is a very worrying development for our parents in County Antrim.”
About 90 heart surgery operations are carried out each year by the Belfast Health Trust with a further 40 taking place in either England or Dublin.
The health board is now tasked with carrying out a consultation on how best to cater for these children elsewhere.
Antrim families could be forced to travel to England for pediatric surgery and other treatment as the report signals the closure of the Belfast service.
Sarah added: “Removing this surgery in Belfast will mean that very ill babies, children and their families will forced to travel hundreds of miles for specialist treatment as well as surgery,” she added. “It is imperative that the local service is retained.
“We are calling on Health Minister Edwin Poots to ensure the continued provision of heart surgery for babies and children at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast. This is the time for local Ministers to take local decisions and resist a ‘one size fits all’ UK approach.
“The demographic model used by the Safe and Sustainable team is based on England and Wales, which has a population of over 60m. The report is also contradictory in places as on the one hand it recognises that there are no safety concerns over the Belfast service but then says that there is a potential safety risk within 6 months. This is alarmist and contradictory.
“Our overriding position is that it is imperative that children’s heart surgery continues to be delivered at the hospital in Belfast.”
Katie has urged local residents to sign the children’s heartbeat trust e petition against the proposals:
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