EDWIN Poots is to commission an international team of experts to assess the current and future needs for children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland and in the Republic.
The Health Minister has announced the review which is supported by his counterpart in Dublin Dr James Reilly.
However, while the review is carried out, the current medical arrangements will remain in place for at least six months.
The three-person international review team will be chaired by Dr John Mayer, a consultant cardiac surgeon at Boston’s children’s hospital.
One expert will be appointed from the USA while a third person has yet to be announced.
The review will examine the need for cardiology and cardiac surgery for congenital heart disease on a north-south basis and will report by next June.
The DUP Health Minister announced the review in the Assembly on Monday.
His move was welcomed been welcomed across the political spectrum.
Health Committee chairwoman Maeve McLaughlin said the joint approach by Mr Poots and Dr Reilly was a “a step in the right direction”.
“For too long now, families have had to travel to England at great expense for themselves at a time which is difficult enough for their lives and the lives of their children,” she said.
“The families now need guarantees that, in the interim, any child that needs to have surgery will be able to avail of that in Belfast.”
UUP MLA Robin Swann said it was good news that the Minister had set up a team of clinicians and not managers to carry out the assessment.
He added: “While this wasn’t the announcement many expected, or wanted, today, it is positive that we are another step closer to reaching a final decision on the future of paediatric congenital cardiac services in Belfast.”