All Island CHD Network Conference 2017

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December 7th, 2017

Click here to see video of CHD Network

Dr Paul Ozlislok, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at Crumlin Hospital, discusses an All-Island approach to children's health

On Friday 17th and Saturday 18th November the All Island CHD Network Annual Conference was held in Belfast for the first time.  Over the course of two days, over 350 delegates came together to hear from national and international experts in the field of congenital heart disease including surgeons, consultants, nurses, clinical psychologists and patients.

The network for paediatric cardiology is the first time a formal structure of this kind has been established in Europe. It is a groundbreaking initiative for children born with congenital heart disease as two different health care systems work together in response to changes in the way that paediatric cardiac care is delivered. The network is also unique in its approach in that it is implemented by a network board led by clinicians, with important input from parent representative groups, managerial staff from the two participating institutions and staff from the Departments of Health both north and south.

The question of how we deliver health care to the highest possible standard for all patients when faced with challenging budgets is a crucial one. Right across the health sector we are experiencing stretched resources and as the procedures performed and patient’s conditions become more complex, these financial and resource issues are even more demanding. As an island with a population of 6 million people it makes sense, particularly in clinical terms, to look at a collaborative and partnership approach for specialisms and more rare conditions. This is exactly what the paediatric cardiology network does.

Combining the skills and resources of the two units’ north and south will bring an enhanced service to every patient, comparable with any paediatric cardiology service across the world. These combined skills and resources are already delivering outcomes for children. This year about 100 children from Northern Ireland will travel to Dublin for cardiac surgery or interventional catheter procedures. Adolescent patients from the Republic of Ireland who have been on long waiting lists have been able to travel to Belfast for treatment.  Without this initiative these children would have had to travel to England for surgery or face undue waits to have treatment.

The Friday programme was tailored to a clinical audience and Saturday’s a patient and family audience, with speakers sharing their experience and expertise across both days.  Our Keynote Speaker was Dr Chris Caldarone (Surgeon in Chief, Hospital for Sick Children Toronto) who travelled from Canada to join the conference and delivered two fascinating and inspiring talks about the importance of leadership within a clinical setting and how to encourage and develop innovative approaches for the treatment of congenital heart defects.

Other highlights of the conference included Dr Paul Oslizlok’s (Consultant Paediatric Cardioloist, OLCHC) and Dr Frank Casey (Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist, RBHSC) and joint presentation on the development of the All Island CHD Network, and the talks given by two patients – Rianna McAteer (17) and Siobhan Quinn (37) about the realities of growing up with CHD.

The conference is a wonderful opportunity for our heart families to meet and hear from a range of clinical and allied health professionals, and we were delighted that so many families from RoI were able to join us in Belfast to benefit from this knowledge, meet with other heart families and engage in the network’s development.

We are already looking forward to 2018’s conference in Dublin!