Saturday, April 27, 2013

A new reason for hope on Northern Ireland

I have avoided the row over the closure of children's heart surgery units in Leeds and even Leicester. Localism has its limits, and I suspect they fall short of state-of-the-art surgery.

But I cannot ignore a remarkable story that was in the Guardian a couple of days ago:
Children's heart surgery is to cease in Northern Ireland, with services moved south of the border to Dublin. 
The health service in Northern Ireland has recommended an all-island service, after a review concluded that heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children was no longer sustainable. 
Last year a separate report said centres across the UK should each perform a minimum of 400 children's surgical procedures a year to maintain skills, and Belfast falls short of that number. 
It is expected that children who require surgery will travel to Our Lady's children's hospital in Dublin instead. Health ministers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic indicated on Thursday that they would approve the move.
And who is the Northern Ireland politician behind this move? It is Edwin Poots, the Democratic Unionist health minister in the Stormont executive.

The hope for Northern Ireland was not so much that politicians would answer the Irish question but that, with the added importance of Europe and the transnational imperative of the market, it would cease to matter so much.

If a Democratic Unionist is happy to co-operate with a Dublin hospital in this way, that hope may not be as realistic as it has sometimes seemed.

No comments: