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The programme creates new academic partnerships which will drive innovative research to enhance the delivery of evidence-based and cost-effective cardiac care to children and young people across the island of Ireland.
The Minister was speaking at an event, jointly hosted by Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University (UU), marking the commencement of the Northern Ireland strand of the programme, which will work in partnership with University College Dublin (UCD) and Children’s Health Ireland (CHI). The launch follows the appointment earlier this year of Professor Frank Casey to Queen’s and UU and Professor Colin McMahon to UCD and CHI.
The research programme is the latest initiative of the All-Island CHD Network, which was established in 2015 by then Ministers for Health in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to ensure that high quality and timely access to specialist cardiac services can be provided for all children and young people wherever they live across the island of Ireland.
Minister Swann said: “The launch of the research programme today marks another significant step forward for the All-Island CHD Network which is helping to deliver a vital service for vulnerable children and young people on both sides of the border. Investment in research, education and innovation is key to ensuring the provision of high-quality care and the integration of leading advances in research into clinical practice. My Department has played a key role in supporting the development of this important collaborative research initiative.”
The Health Minister for the Republic of Ireland, Stephen Donnelly, said: “I welcome the launch of this valuable initiative of the All-Island CHD Network. Working collaboratively with healthcare providers and university partners provides an excellent opportunity to create an all-island research and education network which will help improve the care, health outcomes and experiences for those children living with congenital heart disease and their families.”
To date, the All-Island Network has overseen transformative change including the transfer of all Northern Ireland emergency, urgent and new elective surgery from Great Britain to CHI at Crumlin in Dublin, the opening of the newly refurbished Children’s Heart Centre at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 2019, and the establishment of a network of regional centres around the island where care can be delivered closer to home by paediatricians with a specialist expertise in congenital heart disease.
Dr Len O’Hagan, Chair of the All-Island CHD Network said: “Today this important and unique Network enters the ‘world class’ phase of the journey we started in 2015. Despite the setbacks of the pandemic in recent years, it has remained our guiding vision to strive towards a world class CHD service with patients and families at its centre. On behalf of everybody with an interest in improving our knowledge and treatment of congenital heart disease, I want to commend Professor Frank Casey and Professor Colin McMahon, and the three universities working in partnership, for the immense work they have done to enable this important step to be taken.”
This research programme will focus on a number of different themes. These will include development and application of new technologies, improving early detection and developing strategies to optimise the best physical, educational and developmental outcomes for all those treated for congenital heart disease in childhood.
Professor Frank Casey said: “I want to thank our Health Minister and his Department for the support and significant financial investment which will allow us to develop this exciting research programme in children’s heart disease. The partnership between Ulster University and Queen’s University, working in collaboration with our colleagues in the south, allows us to harness the talents of all researchers in this field on the island of Ireland. By working together in clinical care and research we can provide a world class service for all our families affected by congenital heart disease.”
Professor Stuart Elborn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the All-Island Congenital Heart Disease Network Research Programme. This presents a real opportunity to create new partnerships which will drive research focused on health innovation and the implementation of evidence based, cost effective and high-quality cardiac care to children and young people across the island of Ireland.”
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