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Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and his Northern Ireland counterpart Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Jim Wells MLA have announced that Dr Len O’Hagan CBE DL, CEO of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, will take a leading role in a new all-island initiative to treat Congenital Heart Disease.

Dr O’Hagan will chair the Network Board which was formally launched this week to oversee the creation of a single, all-island treatment network for Congenital Heart Disease, and ensure that all children have access to the highest standard of cardiac care.

In addition to his role as CEO of the RCPI, Dr O’Hagan is the Chairman of Northern Ireland Water.  He is also a Director of the Ireland US Council.

Also appointed to the Network Board this week is Margaret Rogers, the CEO of Heart Children Ireland which supports parents and families of children with a Congenital Heart Disorder.

The Congenital Heart Disease Network is the first significant all-island model of clinical care, and will work largely out of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin in partnership with Royal Hospital, Belfast in Northern Ireland, alongside the Mater Hospital in Dublin. The Network will initially focus on treating children and young adults, before expanding to include adults as well.

Minister Varadkar said: “I’m delighted that we are making significant progress on this important project and that we have appointed someone of the calibre of Dr O’Hagan to the new Network Board. The Network for Congenital Heart Disease will ensure that a very vulnerable group of sick children and young people get the best level of care, no matter where they come from on the island. It will bring together everyone working in this area to ensure that we can provide the best level of care, wherever they come from.”

“It makes so much sense to develop healthcare through North-South co-operation. We should never allow politics or jurisdictional issues get in the way of what is best for patients and their families.  This project and the provision of cancer care for the north-west including Donegal at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry are tangible examples of this.  I expect there will be many more examples in the future. I want to acknowledge the commitment shown by the staff at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, the Royal Hospital in Belfast, and the Mater.”

Minister Wells said: “Following public consultation on the International Working Group’s recommendations which revealed significant support for the all-island network, I am delighted to confirm my support and approval for the network to be established. This presents a tremendous opportunity to build on the respective strengths of the children’s heart centres in Belfast and Dublin through the creation of an all-island service which I believe has the potential to provide world class facilities, services and outcomes for these vulnerable children and their families from across the island of Ireland. This is a prize to be strived for and I send my best wishes to the clinicians, managers and family representatives who will work together to deliver the new service model.”

The Network Board will work under the direction of a Cross-Jurisdictional Group comprising Chief Medical Officers and senior health administrators from the Republic and Northern Ireland. It will implement the recommendations of the International Working Group on the provision of services to patients with Congenital Heart Disease.

Other benefits of the service will include an expanded database for research into congenital heart disease, and an expanded range of medical services, to reflect that fact that patients with Congenital Heart Disease are now living much longer and fuller lives.


The Framework Document for the governance of the Network has been approved by both Ministers and is available at:

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