Fermanagh urged to speak out on Children's Heart Services

Published: 18 Dec 2012 08:45

FERMANAGH has less than a week to make its voice heard on the future of children's heart surgery in Northern Ireland.

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That is the message from the Children's Heartbeat Trust, the organisation campaigning to retain the vital services in Belfast.

Families in the County who know all too well how important the services currently provided at the Royal Victoria Hospital are have been urging people to feed into the current consultation which comes to an end this Friday, December 21.

Five public meetings were held across Northern Ireland as part of the consultation, the first of which took place in Enniskillen,

In addition, there have been a number of focus groups.

At the local event Bellanaleck mother, Jennifer Keys described how her 21-month-old Alfie has undergone four operations in his short life, all of which have taken place in Birmingham.

"As a parent I understand what it is like to have to leave your family and friends here to take your child across the water for surgery," she told the consultation panel, "It is an incredibly difficult situation for any family to be faced with.

"I would take him to the moon if I thought he would get the best care there. But the only person I completely trust with Alfie's life is his doctor in Belfast. He knows him like the back of his own hand. You just don't get that personal level of care over in England. The ward over there is like a cattle market and because nurses are under-staffed, they don't have the time to help you, you are really on your own."

Sarah Quinlan, Children's Heartbeat Trust Executive Officer urged people from Enniskillen to make sure they fed into the consultation before Friday's deadline.

"Since this issue arose parents and children have fought an uphill battle to ensure that the safety of children is prioritised in any future provision of heart surgery in Northern Ireland. In England, the Health Secretary has launched a full review of similar recommendations made by officials there which would see three units close. Here, while the Stormont Health Committee called for this review process to be suspended, it will run to completion and for that reason everyone must ensure that their views are heard.

"It is vital that people understand there is a very real possibility that heart surgery in Belfast for babies and young children could be closed. The risk to life for children born here who require emergency surgery is unthinkable as well as the emotional and financial stress which families would suffer if forced to travel to England for elective operations.

"There is evidence from other parts of the UK, that when paediatric cardiac surgery is stopped, the units find it difficult to retain and attract cardiologists and specialists and there is also a subsequent risk of deskilling our paediatric anaesthetists and intensive care staff. Let me be clear - this approach to specialist services for children in Northern Ireland would leave other low volume paediatric specialties such as neurology or renal surgery vulnerable too. We risk downgrading our amazing regional children's hospital to a general hospital," she added.

The consultation document and response form can be accessed on the Board's website at www.hscboard.hscni.net/consult/PCCS_Consultation  

 Responses should be returned by email to PCCSConsultation@hscni.net or in written form to:- Paediatric Congenital Cardiac Services Consultation, Health and Social Care Board, 12-22 Linenhall St, Belfast, BT2 8BS.

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