United front as MLAs sign Heartbeat pledge

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A number of local MLAs have signed a pledge at Stormont to safeguard the future provision of congenital heart surgery in Northern Ireland.

Gregory Campbell, Cathal O hOisin, George Robinson and David McClarty each signed the pledge, which states: “The safety of children and adults in Northern Ireland relies on continued congenital heart surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

“I pledge to ensure that this world-class service continues and that children here can avail of the best surgical services in Belfast, Dublin and across centres in Britain. I will vote against any move to remove this surgery from Belfast.”

Following the signing event, which was attended by representatives from the Children’s Heartbeat Trust along with families of children with congenital heart surgery from across Northern Ireland, the charity’s Executive Officer Sarah Quinlan said: “Ensuring the future safe provision of congenital heart surgery in Northern Ireland is vitally important for the many children, teenagers and adults who rely on the expertise and treatment provided by the excellent surgical and cardiology team at the Royal in Belfast.

“This pledge, which is being signed by more and more of our MLAs from all parties, shows the depth of support for the many children now and in the future who will rely on this surgery.

“It is clear that any removal of surgery from Belfast would put at risk the lives of children born with critical congenital heart problems which are impossible to diagnose before birth.

“Also, the implications for other services, lack of 24/7 transport and the threat to the wider children’s hospital mean that the future of this surgery must be secured through an all-island network operating between Dublin and Belfast and continued links with units in Britain.”