Health Minister praises work of all-island Congenital Heart Disease Network during Covid-19

Date published: 19 June 2020

Health Minister Robin Swann has praised the vital work of the all-island Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Network during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Statement on HMS Caroline
Statement on HMS Caroline

Maintaining well-established links to surgical and interventional cardiology services in Dublin during the pandemic has ensured essential access for Northern Ireland patients, and enabled families to stay together as their children undergo treatment. Flights and access to these services in England have been severely restricted during this period.  

40 children had cardiac surgery in Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) from January to May 2020, compared to 27 children for the same time period in 2019.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The continued commitment and dedication of the Belfast and Dublin Paediatric Cardiology teams demonstrates what true partnership working in a modern day health service looks like.”

“I have heard first-hand about the work the nursing, medical and surgical staff at Children’s Health Ireland in Crumlin are doing and it is thanks to them and their colleagues in the Belfast Trust that we are now on the road to building a world class Paediatric Cardiology programme across our two health systems. That in itself is a unique achievement. To weather the additional challenges placed on them by Covid-19, to continue providing critical surgeries and saving lives, is something special. I would like to extend my thanks to those staff involved in delivering this service and to Minister Simon Harris for their continued support. I would also extend my sincere thanks to the paediatric cardiology team in the Belfast Trust for their care and support of their patients.

“I am reassured that any baby born with congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland now has access to a level of care comparable to anywhere in the world. The Children’s Heart Disease Network Board achieved its landmark 5th anniversary this year and I commend the Board for the partnership working which it has secured to improve the lives of children and their families across the island of Ireland.”

Professor Frank Casey, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and clinical lead in Northern Ireland commented: “By working in close partnership the teams in Belfast and Dublin have been able to deliver safe care during the Covid-19 crisis for those children with congenital heart disease needing emergency or urgent surgery. The level of surgical activity that has been delivered at Children’s Health Ireland during this crisis has been much higher than what has been possible in other parts of the UK.”

“If children born in Northern Ireland had been solely dependent on accessing Paediatric Cardiac Surgical services in England in the past few months then we would have faced a fairly impossible situation, and this has demonstrated very clearly the value of the Paediatric Cardiology network for our patients and their families.”

The CHD Network Board was established by Health Ministers in 2015 to provide a single paediatric cardiology service across Ireland, delivered through a surgical centre in Dublin, a Children’s Heart Centre in Belfast, and supported by enhanced paediatric cardiology services at local hospitals.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The number of children who had cardiac catheterisations in CHI from Jan-May 2020 is 42, compared to 39 for the same time period in 2019.
  2. March to May for cardiac surgery is 30 (15 for same time period last year) and 24 for cardiac catheterisations (also 24 for the same time period in 2019).
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