Unit decision is predetermined

Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, Robin Swann MLA and Sarah Quinlan Chief Executive of Children's Heartbeat Trust
Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, Robin Swann MLA and Sarah Quinlan Chief Executive of Children's Heartbeat Trust
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The ’enthusiastic endorsement’ for ending children’s heart surgery in Belfast has been heavily criticised by local campaigners.

Ulster Unionist Party election candidate Jo-Anne Dobson has hit out at DUP Health Minister, Jim Wells, for what she decribed as ‘enthusiastically endorsing’ recommendations to end paediatric cardiac surgery in Northern Ireland.

We’ve been expecting this since the announcement last year, so it wasn’t unexpected

Julie Flaherty

The UUP Health Spokesperson said: “I am concerned that his statement was little more than a rubber stamp, confirming for parents what they already knew in their hearts.

“Listening to the Minister, it confirmed my suspicions that this consultation exercise was one with a predetermined outcome.”

Julie Flaherty, from Portadown, has been campaigning endlessly with the Children’s Heartbeat Trust since her son was born with a congenital heart defect in 2011.

Her son, Jake, died aged just two years old, but received his treatment in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after Mr Wells’ announcement, Julie said: “We’ve been expecting this since the announcement last year, so it wasn’t unexpected - but it’s disappointing, nonetheless.”

The Health Minister suggested that changes would be phased in over the next 15-18 months.

“In the interim, our children are having to travel to England for treatment,” Julie explained. “The way the consultations have been held have been very difficult for parents.

“We were very fortunate in that my son got all his treatment between Belfast and Craigavon, but the Children’s Heartbeat Trust will be fighting now to make sure that the £1.2 million will provide pre- and post-operative care for children in Belfast.”

Julie recently launched Jake’s Ladybird Bags, which contain basic supplies to help parents having to travel at short notice with children suffering from heart disease.

“After the announcement, it seems these bags have been launched at the perfect time,” she said.

Visit www.childrensheartbeattrust.org or search for Jake’s Ladybird Bags for more.