Children’s heart surgery set to move from Beflast to Dublin

James Reillys says he is ‘quite happy’ there is capacity here

Dr James Reilly: happy there is capacity in Dublin

Dr James Reilly: happy there is capacity in Dublin


Children’s congenital heart surgery is set to be moved from Belfast to Dublin under a new plan unveiled today.

UThe operations will take place Our Lady’s Children’s hospital in Crumlin using enhanced transport links and surgeons from the north working in Dublin, a meeting of the governing Health and Social Care Board said.

The change is intended to ensure that doctors carry out enough procedures to keep up their skills,

The decision will need to be approved formally by Minister for Health James Reilly and Stormont health minister Edwin Poots.

Speaking earlier, Dr Reilly said there was no limit to the shared frontiers which could be explored. “I am quite happy that we will have a capacity here in Dublin to look after children from the North of Ireland,” he said.

Mr Poots said he intended to hold further discussions with his counterparts in Dulbin and explore the scope for flexibility in the location for the future delivery of this service without compromising patient safety. “My key priority in all of this is to ensure the delivery of a safe and sustainable service for these vulnerable children,” he said. “In so doing, I want to ensure that we have fully explored every possibility for addressing the concerns which have been raised with me by parents and by consultants.”

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland, with around 250 babies born with the condition every year, according to the Children‘s Heartbeat Trust charity.

Last year an expert report said centres must perform a minimum of 400 children’s surgical procedures each year to maintain skills. Belfast falls short of that number, with the volume of cases decreasing in recent times.

The health board‘s decision followed another review that said, while safe, undertaking heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children was no longer sustainable.

This was primarily because of the small population served and lower activity level of medics than recommended by professional organisations.

Following an investigation, the board decided children who required planned surgery should travel to Dublin, with an improved transport network from Northern Ireland to help meet the three hour timeframe for emergency surgery. Support cardiology services in Northern Ireland will be enhanced.

Options ruled out included splitting surgery between Belfast and Dublin or involving hospitals in Britain.