Mr Robin Swann, the Ulster Unionist North Antrim Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont All Party Committee on Congenital Heart Disease, has welcomed the latest win in the battle for extending special heart monitoring services for children and young people in Northern Ireland with news that trials have begun in pulse oximetry in Daily Hill Hospital in Newry in conjunction with the Southern Health Trust.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip and North Antrim UUP Chairman, said he hoped the success of this trial could mean that similar trials could also begin in the hospitals which service the North Antrim constituency, namely the Antrim and Causeway hospitals.
News of Mr Swann’s latest victory in his campaign for children’s heart services came during question time to the health minister at Stormont.
Mr Swann had asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for an update on the findings and outworkings of the pulse oximetry trial in Daisy Hill Hospital in conjunction with the Southern Health Trust, “and, as Chair of the all-party group on congenital heart disease and the father of a child with congenital heart disease, to accept his congratulations and thanks for its introduction”.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the health minister said: “We all realise and acknowledge that innovation will solve many of the problems in our health and social care system that we have been talking about. It comes, sometimes, at considerable cost.
“That is why we are not always able to bring innovations and changes through the system as quickly as we would like. Sometimes bureaucracy gets in the way of that too.
“I know that the Member has a particular interest in this issue, and he is absolutely right to continue to push for improvements in the service for young children who have heart defects and problems and to ensure that it improves on an ongoing basis. That is something that I am committed to.
“I met the Children’s Heartbeat Trust recently, and we discussed some of the issues that children and service users are facing. I am certainly committed to doing my best to take the service forward to ensure that the excellent service in Belfast continues and that we put the all-island network in place as quickly as possible,” the Minister told Assemblyman Swann.
Mr Swann added: “The minister’s predecessors said that they were going to wait for the results of the UK trial, which are not due until next September. The big concern was the number of false positives that come from that.
“Has the Minister put in mechanisms for parents, children and clinicians not just in Daisy Hill but in the Clark clinic to support them?” Mr Swann asked.
The minister responded: “I am aware that the National Screening Committee (NSC), from which our Administration and, indeed, others across the UK take guidance on issues like this, has been running its own pilot. It is due to report next year, and I will look at that evidence as well.”
Mr Swann added that he would keep up the pressure to establish similar heart services for children and young people specifically in the North Antrim constituency.