Question Time: Health, Social Services and Public Safety Tuesday 03 December 2013

Health Minister, Edwin Poots, was asked about the benefits of his community resuscitation strategy during today’s Question Time. The Minister declared that such a strategy will result in the increase of survival rates for those who suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest. Indeed areas with a higher concentration of people trained in Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills possess a higher survival rate of such cardiac arrests. However more people need to be trained in these skills and “the challenge is to achieve as much as possible with the resources that are available”.  For every minute without treatment after a heart attack the chances of survival decrease by 10%. In addition, more people need to know where they can access one of the 1000 automated external defibrillators located around the country and need trained in how to use them. The education system and local sports clubs could be effective avenues for increasing awareness and knowledge.

Maeve McLaughlin then raised concerns over the situation regarding the availability of paediatric cardiac surgery in Northern Ireland. There has been concern ever since the August 2012 HSCB report of the external review of paediatric congenital cardiac services (PCCS) in Northern Ireland. The working group established in the wake of the report recommended that surgery be made available in Dublin with investment in new cardiology facilities being made in Belfast. The Minister said that he expects to deliver news very soon and that we “shouldn’t underestimate how difficult this process has been and the challenges involved”. As “it is not feasible for Northern Ireland to have a standalone service” it is important that we retain some sort of service that is safe and sustainable. Negotiations are ongoing with the Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD – he acknowledged that it’s a big ask of the surgeons in Dublin and they deserve our respect with any decision that they make.

As well as answering a round of topical questions, Mr Poots also answered Members queries regarding Ward Five North of the Belfast City Hospital, the risks involved with hereditary high levels of cholesterol and the efforts being made to reduce mortality rates due to circulatory disease.

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