Published Wednesday, 01 August 2012
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The threat to local services follows a Health and Social Care Board report into Paediatric cardiac care in the region which was published on Wednesday.
The review team found there was no issue with the quality of the care received by children born with heart problems - but it said there are simply not enough operations being carried out to sustain the service.
Around 90 paediatric operations are carried out here every year, with another 40 taking place in London or Dublin.
However, NHS guidelines state that services should be performing at least 400 a year.
Wednesday's report says large 24/7 specialist centres are the best and safest option.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, of the Health and Social Care Board, told UTV that in a specialist centre needs round the clock doctors and nurses.
She said that with a population of 1.8million, and 140 children needing the service every year, it was not possible.
"It's a very challenging position," she added.
The announcement follows a review of children's heart services which began in March.
In a written statement to the Assembly, the Health Minister Edwin Poots says the review team found that although there were no immediate safety concerns for patients, "the Review Team has stated that the paediatric congenital cardiac service is not sustainable in Belfast and ... should cease."
He has asked the health and social care board to consider all options for the future including "the potential for an all-island service and/or networking arrangements with other centres in the UK."
Mr Poots has now tasked a working group, consisting of parent groups and clinicians, to establish options for the future of the services.
But for those families who need treatment, there's real concern.
Alan McCullough, whose son Jay has a heart problem, said: "Since we found out about Jay's condition from the 20 week scan, they've been there for us and helping us through the tough times and to take them away would be absolutely drastic for us.
"The services have provided with us with so much comfort."
The working Group is to begin consultation in September for six months.
A final decision on the future of the service will be announced early next year.