Families join march to save children’s heart surgery facility

Larne families and campaigners have joined hundreds of people from across Northern Ireland for a rally aimed at protecting the future provision of children’s heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The protest assembled at the hospital, where children who have undergone treatment for congenital heart disease met clinicians and public representatives, before marching to the Health and Social Care Board offices in the city centre.

Sarah Quinlan from Children’s Heartbeat Trust said: “This march was a clear demonstration to our Health Service commissioners that the future safety of children in Northern Ireland relies on the maintenance of heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Belfast. Any steps to remove emergency and planned surgery to England would place lives at risk as well as placing immeasurable emotional and financial strain on families.

“The message today from doctors, nurses, parents and children to the Health Service commissioners is that their focus should be to ensure this happens through the strengthening of provision in Belfast as part of an all-Ireland surgical network. This issue affects families from Larne and from every part of Northern Ireland.”

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland with some 250 births per year, and just under 200 operations and interventions on babies, teenagers, children and adults taking place here each year.