Findings were ‘categorical’

Health Minister Jim Wells.

Health Minister Jim Wells.

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Having promised ‘MAIL’ readers he would take a ‘long, cold look’ at the controversial proposal to close the children’s heart surgery in Belfast, Health Minister Jim Wells said his announcement on Tuesday came sooner than he expected due to overwhelming evidence from an independent report.

He told the ‘MAIL’ this week: “This was the fourth report and the findings are categorical. There is a 12-week consultation started today and if any radical new evidence comes forward the decision can be looked at again.”

Making a joint statement with his counterpart in the Republic, Leo Varadkar, Mr Wells said a single children’s heart centre in Dublin would see children being treated in accordance the highest standards of care.

A group of international experts concluded that the relatively few cases of congenital paediatric heart disease in Ireland could not justify the operation of two surgical centres on both sides of the border.

Mr Wells said the new model was “absolutely focused on patient care and safety”.

Meanwhile Mr Wells’ party colleague and Upper Bann MP David Simpson welcomed the announcement, stressing the need for family involvement in any new service.

Following Mr Wells announcement he commented: “The independent report clearly highlights the need for family involvement in the creation of any new service and I know that this reiterates exactly what the parents said to the minister in our meeting on Monday.

“The creation of a family advisory group is also a welcome suggestion. The report does clearly point towards a joint service with the Republic of Ireland but I have no doubt that much more consideration will be given to this by the Minister in the coming weeks and months.”