Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Doherty expresses dismay at inaction over sudden cardiac death in the young

18 December, 2007


Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has expressed dismay that the specialist team announced by Minister Michael Mc Gimpsey in September to examine the issue of sudden cardiac death in the young has still not met 3 months on.

He said,

"It is completely unacceptable that the Minister has not mandated this group to meet long before now giving the urgency that this issue requires.

"The need for a holistic strategy to be formulated and resourced to tackle the issue of sudden cardiac death in the young was brought home to everyone with the tragic deaths in of four young people in Tyrone and Co Westmeath earlier this year.

"After the September Ministerial announcement I was keen to ensure that the issue remained a top priority for the health authorities as it fell from prominence in the media.

"I submitted a detailed series of questions on the issue to the Minister which he answered on 2nd November (See Below). The main thrust of his answers was to highlight the importance of the findings and recommendations of the specialist team led by the Chief Medical officer which he said would be fully reflected in the Service Framework for Cardiovascular Health & Wellbeing which would be published for consultation in April of next year.

"However, this timeframe and must now be called in question in light of the fact that this specialist team has not even met yet. The Minister now needs to take urgent steps to ensure that the issue of sudden cardiac death in the young is given the urgency it deserves. ENDS

Below are the written questions submitted to Michael Mc Gimpsey by Pat Doherty in October and answered on November 2nd 2007:

Mr P Doherty asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety what steps he is taking to make cardiac screening for young people a statutory provision within the health service; and to make it available on a universal basis.

(AQW 1107/08)

Mr M McGimpsey: The recent tragic deaths of young boys enjoying sport have brought home to us again the shock and devastation felt by their families, friends and communities. The most fitting response is that we put in place the most effective measures possible to minimise this terrible risk.
Our response has to be based on sound evidence. This is a complex area: more than twenty diffierent conditions have been identified as causes of sudden cardiac death in young people, and there is no single screening test that would diagnose all these causes. It is also important to consider whether screening is always the right course of action.
A workshop, led by the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety, is being organised to look at sudden cardiac death in the young. This workshop will call on an expert body of opinion to give this matter the attention it needs, and explore what further steps can be taken to protect those who are most at risk. This will include leading health experts in cardiology, clinical psychology, genetics, and research academics within this field, along with people from the relevant Government Departments, public health bodies, the Sports Council, and voluntary organisations.
The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) is scheduled to review its policy advice on screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2007/08. The Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has written to the Chair of the NSC asking them to prioritise this review.
Sudden cardiac death in young will be covered in the Service Framework for Cardiovascular Health and Wellbeing which is due to be published for consultation in April 2008.
Regarding early health checks, all newborn babies have their hearts examined for defects.
All the facts need to be considered by the specialist group before any recommendations can be agreed and taken forward. This work is being taken forward as quickly as possible. At this stage it would not be right for me either to pre-empt the outcome of this work or to commit to a timescale.

Cardiac Screening
Mr P Doherty asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety what steps he is taking to ensure that there are no barriers to children under the age of 14 accessing cardiac screening; and what consideration he is giving to integrating the option of cardiac screening into the system of early health checks and immunisations for children.

(AQW 1108/08)

Mr M McGimpsey: The recent tragic deaths of young boys enjoying sport have brought home to us again the shock and devastation felt by their families, friends and communities. The most fitting response is that we put in place the most effective measures possible to minimise this terrible risk.
Our response has to be based on sound evidence. This is a complex area: more than twenty diffierent conditions have been identified as causes of sudden cardiac death in young people, and there is no single screening test that would diagnose all these causes. It is also important to consider whether screening is always the right course of action.
A workshop, led by the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety, is being organised to look at sudden cardiac death in the young. This workshop will call on an expert body of opinion to give this matter the attention it needs, and explore what further steps can be taken to protect those who are most at risk. This will include leading health experts in cardiology, clinical psychology, genetics, and research academics within this field, along with people from the relevant Government Departments, public health bodies, the Sports Council, and voluntary organisations.
The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) is scheduled to review its policy advice on screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2007/08. The Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has written to the Chair of the NSC asking them to prioritise this review.
Sudden cardiac death in young will be covered in the Service Framework for Cardiovascular Health and Wellbeing which is due to be published for consultation in April 2008.
Regarding early health checks, all newborn babies have their hearts examined for defects.
All the facts need to be considered by the specialist group before any recommendations can be agreed and taken forward. This work is being taken forward as quickly as possible. At this stage it would not be right for me either to pre-empt the outcome of this work or to commit to a timescale.

Cardiac Risk in the Young
Mr P Doherty asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to outline what additional resources he is making available to deal with cardiac-related deaths and cardiac risk in the young; specifically in terms of increasing (i) the number of specialist cardiologists who can interpret tests; (ii) the availability of defibrilators and people trained in their use; and (iii) the level of bereavement counselling services available to families affected by sudden death, due to undetected heart conditions.

(AQW 1109/08)

Mr M McGimpsey: (i) Since 2002, there has been a 66% increase in the number of doctors pursuing specialist training in cardiology to meet the needs of the service.
(ii) There is no central register of how many defibrillators are available in Northern Ireland. The Department is currently working with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at QUB, and with the Health and Social Care (HSC) Boards and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), to develop a Strategy for First Responders and Public Access Defibrillation. Part of this work will entail an exercise to identify the extent to which automated external defibrillators are available in Northern Ireland.
(iii) Trained staff within the Health and Social Care sector in Northern Ireland offer a wide range of support to the bereaved. This is in addition to the services available from voluntary, community and church organisations. The establishment, in March 2006, within the HSC of a Northern Ireland Bereavement Network comprising five area co-ordinators based in local trusts also makes a significant contribution to developing support for those families who experience a sudden death.

Investigate Heart Screening
Mr P Doherty asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety if he will indicate when the specialists group, established to investigate heart screening for young people, will report on its findings and recommendations.

(AQW 1110/08)

Mr M McGimpsey: The recent tragic deaths of young boys enjoying sport have brought home to us again the shock and devastation felt by their families, friends and communities. The most fitting response is that we put in place the most effective measures possible to minimise this terrible risk.
Our response has to be based on sound evidence. This is a complex area: more than twenty diffierent conditions have been identified as causes of sudden cardiac death in young people, and there is no single screening test that would diagnose all these causes. It is also important to consider whether screening is always the right course of action.
A workshop, led by the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety, is being organised to look at sudden cardiac death in the young. This workshop will call on an expert body of opinion to give this matter the attention it needs, and explore what further steps can be taken to protect those who are most at risk. This will include leading health experts in cardiology, clinical psychology, genetics, and research academics within this field, along with people from the relevant Government Departments, public health bodies, the Sports Council, and voluntary organisations.
The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) is scheduled to review its policy advice on screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2007/08. The Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has written to the Chair of the NSC asking them to prioritise this review.
Sudden cardiac death in young will be covered in the Service Framework for Cardiovascular Health and Wellbeing which is due to be published for consultation in April 2008.
Regarding early health checks, all newborn babies have their hearts examined for defects.
All the facts need to be considered by the specialist group before any recommendations can be agreed and taken forward. This work is being taken forward as quickly as possible. At this stage it would not be right for me either to pre-empt the outcome of this work or to commit to a timescale.

Connect with Sinn Féin