Northern Ireland

Children's heart surgery: parents' reactions

It has been formally decided that children's heart surgery in Northern Ireland will end. The health minister, Jim Wells, had already signalled his support for the proposal last October. It will see operations move to Dublin.

Here, parents of children with heart conditions give their reaction to the news.

Image caption Jennifer Wright with her partner Mark Paisley and their daughter Charlotte

Emergency surgery concerns

Jennifer Wright's six month old daughter Charlotte Paisley has a complex heart condition. The family, from Larne are spending four days in London at the moment, so Charlotte can have an MRI scan on a specific type of machine for babies.

Jennifer's partner is a dairy farmer and he pays someone to milk the cows twice a day when he is away for his daughter's health needs.

Just before they went to London, the family's sheep started lambing. They have decided to stop keeping sheep altogether.

Jennifer says: " Hearing there's a heart condition is bad enough but hearing that you will have to go to London as well is hard.

"In terms of disruption it's not handy to say the least - but we're here now, we're used to it."

She welcomes the news that in future, parents will only have to travel as far as Dublin - but she's worried about what might happen in an emergency.

"Charlotte has a stent to increase blood flow to her lungs. If something blocked it, she would need emergency surgery. There should be access to surgery in Belfast. It's an hour to get to the Royal if the traffic is good, and two hours from there to Dublin. That definitely concerns me."

"It could have been much worse"

Image caption Grace McKee in a hospital waiting room

Judith McKee from Banbridge is the mother of three year-old Grace, who has had two major heart operations in her short life so far.

Judith says: "It's good to know that a decision has finally been made. Future parents now know where they stand.

"It's disappointing but not surprising and it could have been much worse. Services could have been moved to England.

"The independent working group made quite a few recommendations and I believe that Minister Wells has agreed to all of those recommendations happening. As long as all that is carried out the future looks bright for children's heart services in Northern Ireland.

"Pre and post-operation services are already good but need to be improved. I would be worried that all of the money would be spent in Dublin, and Belfast would be left out.

"Getting it all set up has to happen really quickly and we need to get some clarification on whether Dublin have the capacity to take children from Belfast at very short notice."

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