All posts by Collette Leitch

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

General information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Public Health Agency (PHA) provides COVID-19 information for the public at:
This includes information regarding the Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccination Programme and guidance to HSC staff, healthcare workers, care providers, professionals, organisations, schools, colleges and universities.

Information is also available on the NI Direct website at:

Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland in partnership with ORCHA (Organisation for Review of Care and Health Apps) developed a library of Apps to support health and social wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The library provide useful support and information on how to manage stress and improve wellbeing, sleep management, staying fit and nutrition – accessible via a smart phone or PC at:

Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

Vaccinations – What to expect
Book a COVID-19 vaccination
COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine and extremely rare blood clots
COVID-19 vaccination – A guide for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
COVID-19 vaccination – a guide to the programme
Vaccine Programme – Information for professionals – including advice and information on communicating with adults who are deaf or have hearing loss.

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme in the Northern Trust

Northern Trust Services

Coronavirus will be with us for some time, and this will change the way we provide many of those services. Some of the factors that will influence service delivery are: the need to ensure that effective infection control measures are in place; the need for effective social distancing, wherever possible; the availability of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE); the availability of staff; and, budgetary constraints

Details regarding all our services and contact telephone numbers are provided within our A-Z Guide.  Please note staff may call from a withheld number, if you think it could be us please pick up.
In light of disruption, our staff are doing things differently.  Some parts of our service are connecting virtually with service users using a video-calling service called ZOOM.

How to access and set up ZOOM

Cancellation of elective procedures and clinics

This will be kept under review but has involved the cancellation of some non-urgent elective procedures.  Anyone impacted has been contacted directly.  If you have not been contacted, please attend your appointment as normal.

Outpatient Appointments

Please remember the hospital visiting policy when attending Outpatient Appointments and, if it is possible, please only attend by yourself (in the case of adults).

Visiting Arrangements

Visiting arrangements at health and social care facilities

Direct Payments

Department of Health Guidance for people receiving Direct Payments

Information for carers

A central point of contact for carers is available in the Northern Trust Carer Hub

Other information

Support for children, bereaved parents and organisations that can help
Directory of online Faith Resources
A-Z Glossary of Covid-19 Words and Terms

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

Appointments for those eligible are available to book online at

We would urge anyone who is eligible to please come forward at the earliest opportunity for their vaccines.

Eligibility criteria for COVID-19 Booster Programme:

  • Frontline Health & Social Care Workers
  • Pregnant Women
  • 5 -17 years of age in clinical at risk groups
  • 5 -17 years of age who are household contact of anyone who is immunosuppressed
  • 16 -17 years of age who are a carer
  • Non frontline HSC workers who are 50 plus or 18-49 in a clinical risk group


COVID-19 Vaccination in Northern Ireland

Book a COVID-19 Vaccination

If you have any issues with booking please contact

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and the programme please visit NI Direct.

First, Second and Booster Dose Covid-19 Vaccine

Upcoming Vaccination Clinics are available as below. You can book online or walk ins are also available. 

  • Friday 24 March, 10am – 3pm (Girona Restaurant, Causeway Hospital)
  • Friday 31 March, 10am – 3pm (Sun Lounge, Mid Ulster Hospital
  • Friday 7 April,  10am- 3pm (Loughview Restaurant  Antrim Area Hospital)
  • Friday 14 April, 10am- 3pm (Girona Restaurant Causeway Hospital)
  • Friday 21 April, 10am- 3pm  (Sun Lounge Mid Ulster Hospital)
  • Friday 28 April, 10am -3pm (Loughview Restaurant  Antrim Area Hospital)
Maternity Visiting

Northern Trust confirms that it is seeking approval to proceed to public consultation on Maternity Services

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has today confirmed that it plans to seek approval from the Trust Board at its meeting on Thursday 24 November 2022 to go to out to public consultation on options for the future provision of acute maternity services.

Commenting a Trust spokesperson said:

“The current configuration of maternity services in the Northern Trust is a fragile and vulnerable service model that is unsustainable. Available consultant obstetrics and midwifery resources are spread too thinly across the Antrim and Causeway sites and we are seeing a year-on-year decrease in birth numbers in the Causeway Coast and Glens area.

“We urgently need to provide a model for maternity services that addresses current challenges, including issues to do with staffing and recruitment and neonatal care.

“There are clinically deliverable options for providing a more sustainable and safe model and we have always stressed that we would try to make no permanent changes without full public consultation. That remains our preference and we plan to seek approval from Trust Board to immediately commence a 14-week public consultation process.

“Our aim will be to ensure that people fully understand the need for change, the various options and their implications and that they have a real and meaningful chance to fully explore those options and have their say.”  


Janet Potts NHSCT Macmillan Volunteer wins ‘Volunteer of the Year 2022’

Janet Potts, Macmillan Volunteer Beauty Therapist and Look Good Feel Better Volunteer in the Macmillan Unit, Antrim Area Hospital has been announced as winner of the Volunteer of the Year: Northern Ireland Award at the Helpforce Champions Awards 2022.

The awards are an opportunity to recognise the invaluable contribution that volunteers give towards helping NHS staff, patients, families and other organisations.

Janet was shortlisted and crowned winner for her commitment during challenging times and outstanding contribution to volunteering in the health and care sector through her volunteering services as a Beauty Therapist to patients and families receiving palliative care in the Macmillan Unit, Antrim Area Hospital.  In addition to this Janet also volunteers with the Look Good Feel Better charity who work in partnership with the Northern Trust.  She organises virtual beauty therapy sessions via zoom to patients who are receiving treatment after a cancer diagnosis.  This was particularly important during the covid 19 pandemic providing that much needed connection and support to patients.

Nicola McAleese, Macmillan Volunteer Coordinator said: “Janet has been volunteering for over 21 years and is passionate about her volunteering roles.  She brings so much joy and happiness to the lives of so many when their mood is low and they are at their most vulnerable.  Volunteering is a huge part of Janet’s life and she is the embodiment of what a volunteer can bring to an organisation like Macmillan Cancer Support, LGFB and the Northern Trust”.

Janet expressed her delight: “It was a wonderful day celebrating at the awards ceremony in London, which was made even better by winning the Volunteer of the Year (NI) Award. I am delighted to accept this award for all the volunteers at Macmillan in Northern Ireland who give up their time freely and willingly to help others. It is a pleasure to work with patients and is very humbling to help others feel great about themselves when they are going through a really tough time.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of Helpforce, said: “This year, the Helpforce Champions Awards have received a record number of entries with so many brilliant examples of innovation, great practice, commitment, and real passion for patient care and support for staff across the health and care sector in the UK.

The Northern Trust would like to congratulate Janet on achieving this significant award!

HSC NI Foster Carers retire after 50 years of giving Children a Brighter Future

A special recognition event hosted by HSC NI Foster Care in the Northern area celebrates three local foster care families who have dedicated a combined service of 50 years to making a real difference to children and young people’s lives.

Recognised at the event, Yvonne Strange and her late husband Tommy began fostering in 1985, dedicating over 37 years to supporting foster children.

For nearly four decades, the local couple provided a safe, loving and supportive home to over 90 children through short breaks, short term & long term stays, adoption and residence orders.

Yvonne shared her experience, “Anyone can foster as long as you give love and commitment to a child in your home. The children only ever needed me to love and nourish them, they are only looking for someone to help them along and to share family moments with them. I have loved them coming into our home over the years.”

In 2019, Yvonne was awarded a BME for her outstanding service and significant impact to the community through fostering and in more recent years has been a great support to mothers in the community who needed a little bit extra guidance and support.

Also acknowledged for their service to fostering, Ruth and John Quinn from Whitehead have been fostering since 2013. Ruth said, “It can take a while to get through the fostering process but we would encourage anyone to stick with it as it has exceeded our expectations – it is extremely rewarding and worthwhile watching children grow and develop into more confident happy people by giving them love, care and attention.”

Currently over 2,800 children and young people in Northern Ireland rely on foster care, however there is a real need for more foster carers. HSC NI Foster Care need more people to come forward to offer a safe and nurturing home where children can develop, thrive and reach their potential.

When we don’t have enough foster carers children and young people often have to travel significant distances to school, and even have to move outside their local community, away from their school, family and friends, and miss out on enjoying their hobbies and interests.

Could you offer a child a brighter future?

There is no such thing as a typical foster carer, HSC NI Foster Care accept applications from people from all backgrounds regardless of marital, employment or home ownership status, or whether you are a parent or not.

Enquiries are considered from people from any race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation. As a foster carer, you will receive comprehensive training, financial allowances and ongoing social work support.

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, or just want to find out more about what is involved, call HSC NI Foster Care on 0800 0720 137 or visit to find out more.

Service Arrangements for Monday 19 September 2022

We are seeking to keep disruption to our patients and service users to a minimum. Priority will be given to patients with greatest clinical need, including red flag cancer appointments.

Any patient whose care will be affected by the Bank Holiday will be contacted directly by the Trust.

If you are scheduled to attend for an appointment on Monday 19 September and do not receive communication from us please attend as planned.

Community services information fair

Find out what support services are available from local community, voluntary and statuary organisations. 

Cookstown community centre
Friday 19 Aug


Organisations attending:

MacMillan Cancer 



Ability Net

CDM Transport

Mid Ulster Age Well

Age NI Community Navigator

Mid Ulster District Council

Prostate Cancer

Crohns & colitis


MIDAS (Steps)

Network Personnel

Libraries NI

VASP (NI Veterans Support Office)


Sensory Team (NHSCT)

Condition Management Programme (NHSCT)

Carer’s Co-ordinator (NHSCT)

Community Access Support Worker (NHSCT)

Links counselling services

Alzheimer’s Society

Mid Ulster Volunteering Centre

Aware NI

Women’s Aid

Health & Well Being Team (NHSCT)

Women’s Resource & Development Agency

Start 360

Phone First Service to operate Monday – Friday / 8am – 6pm

From Friday 1 July the Phone First service will be available from 8am – 6pm, Monday to Friday, following a stakeholder review which indicated that the majority of calls fell within that timeframe.

Phone First was established in December 2020 to encourage anyone considering attending an emergency department to call beforehand.  Their condition is then clinically assessed and arrangements made for them to access the most appropriate service to their needs.

The Phone First initiative is part of No More Silos which was established by Health Minister, Robin Swann, in October 2020 to maintain and improve urgent and emergency care services.

Dr Mark Jenkins, an Emergency Medicine Consultant at Antrim Area Hospital, explained: “Health and social care funding is finite so the team looked to see what aspects of the work were having the most impact so we could concentrate our resource and ensure the biggest improvement for patients.  We’ve learnt a great deal over the last two years working with our stakeholders and we are now going to focus on a refined Phone First service being able to access the right service, first time.”

Phone First is only available for anyone considering attending Antrim Area or Causeway Hospital Emergency Departments and the Mid Ulster Minor Injury Unit in Magherafelt.

The ‘Phone First’ number to ring is 0300 123 1 123

The ‘Phone First’ text relay number is 18001 0300 123 1 123 and it’s also available through the Interpreter Now App.

Anyone requiring urgent or emergency care outside of the hours of operation should attend their Emergency Department.

More information is available in the Phone First Frequently Asked Questions.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13 – 19 June 2022 as organised by The Parent-Infant Foundation to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health as well as some of the issues that affect it.

This years’ campaign theme ‘Understanding Early Trauma’ is which focuses attention on babies whose mental health is most at risk.

Across the Northern Trust area families have access to specialised tailored support from pregnancy until their children attend school, to help support child development and encourage a close special bond between baby and parent such as Breastfeeding support groups, Star Babies for first time parents, Baby and Me groups, Family Nurse Partnership, Virtual infant massage and adult mental health support.

By working with parents to develop positive, relationships with their babies, this can increase the likelihood that a child will have a happier, more stable start to life, and they’ll be less likely to experience behavioural and emotional problems in later childhood and as adults.

What is Infant Mental Health?

Infant mental health described the social and emotional wellbeing and development of children in the earliest years of life.

The first 1001 days are a period of rapid development; early experiences affect not only babies’ emotional wellbeing now but also influences how their bodies and brains develop.

As a parent or caregiver, giving babies a sense of security and belonging is an early sign of positive infant mental health.   Loving, nurturing, responsive relationships provide young children with a sense of comfort, safety and confidence and lays a foundation for lifelong mental and physical health.

Good infant mental health promotes positive outcomes throughout a person’s life and influences how they parent their own children. Investing in infant mental health pays dividends for generations to come.

Across #IMHAW2022 our Health Visiting Team within the Northern Trust will hold a series of workshops where parents are welcome to join to learn more about Infant Mental Health. Our public health nursing teams will be talking to parents about everyday ways to nurture their relationship with their child. Interactions with your baby during everyday moments, support your baby’s social and emotional development.

 Events Planned for Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 13 – 19 June 2022

Location Date of event Venue Event Time
Coleraine 16/06/22 Lodge Health Centre Importance of play – Gift packs & play idea’s shared 2-3:30pm
Cookstown 16/6/22 Gold Surestart Loy Buildings 18-24 Loy Street

Cookstown BT80 8PE

Breastfeeding support group – Raising awareness Infant Mental Health – Chat and  Learn, responding to baby & cooing together 10-12 noon
Magherafelt 17/6/22 Baptist Church Magherafelt ,6 Ballyronan Road

Magherafelt BT45 6BP

Infant Baby Massage Group – Promoting Infant Mental Health , a conversation , promoting Tiny Happy People – talking with your baby right from the start 10-12 noon
Ballymoney 20/06/22 “Duck pond “ Riverside Park Ballymoney Promoting infant mental health and wellbeing : Pram push .. (weather permitting) 11-12 noon
  • You play a crucial role in building your baby’s brain, so why not have fun with every day activities to share with your little one. Here’s a few tips:
  • Read, talk, listen, and laugh. Everyday ways to help babies and toddlers learn can be easily added to your daily routine. Try talking, reading, singing and playing with your baby. Watch how they respond to you with love, laughter and chat.
  • Babies love smiles, cuddles, clapping. Try singing with your baby, they won’t care whether you know the words.
  • Getting to know your baby starts in the womb. Talk to your midwife about our getting Ready for Baby classes – Getting Ready For Baby Programme – Northern Health and Social Care Trust (
  • Did you know that children whose parents talk to them frequently hear about 45 million words in the first four years? The more words children hear and understand, the more they can say, and the better their reading and vocabulary skills are likely to be.
  • Encouraging your child’s play is one of the most important ways to nurture development and it begins on day 1.

More advice and information on local services visit

NAAAS Virtual sessions

25th April 2022 Helen
How To Be Your Best Self from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • What is the best version of you.
  • The barriers we face when becoming our best self.
  • How do we become our best self?
  • The benefits of being true to yourself.

The different versions of our best self.

Facilitator:  Helen McGahan, Health and wellbeing specialist for Usel. Helen facilitates workshops and 1-2-1 sessions for the clients on the Stride project in Usel. She specialises in health and wellbeing, and she provides employer training on Disability & Autism awareness.

Follow up materials available here.

30th May 2022 Helen
Self Acceptance & Self Love from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • What is self acceptance?
  • Why is self acceptance important?
  • Barriers to self-love
  • How to love & accept yourself

Facilitator: Helen McGahan, Health and wellbeing specialist for Usel. Helen facilitates workshops and 1-2-1 sessions for the clients on the Stride project in Usel. She specialises  in health and wellbeing, and she provides employer training on Disability & Autism awareness.

Follow up materials available here.

27th June 2022
Motivation from 1.30pm


This session will cover:

  • What is motivation?
  • How to stay motivated.
  • Why is motivation so important?
  • What are the 5 different motivation types?

Facilitator: Helen McGahan, Health and wellbeing specialist for Usel. Helen facilitates workshops and 1-2-1 sessions for the clients on the Stride project in Usel. She specialises in health and wellbeing, and she provides employer training on Disability & Autism awareness.

Meeting ID: 890 8072 3265
Passcode: 594611

Follow up materials available here.

25th July 2022
A Good Night’s Sleep from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • Common causes of sleep difficulties.
  • How much sleep do we actually need?

Practical ways that may help overcome sleep difficulties.


Gwen Blackwell – Gwen is a social worker within the NHSCT based in the Recovery college. She plans and facilitates a range of educational courses based on mental health and general well-being topics. Gwen also shares her own lived experience throughout sessions, offering helpful hints and tips that she uses to support her wellness. Gwen is also involved with student social work programmes within the NHSCT.

Paul McCarroll – Paul is a peer trainer within the Recovery College.  This means Paul uses his own lived experience of mental health to contribute to the planning and facilitating of all the college educational sessions.  Paul shares his own recovery story throughout college sessions, instilling hope and helpful tips in relation to practical things that support his well-being.

Meeting ID: 811 0006 4615
Passcode: 946158

Follow up materials available here.


22nd August 2022
Transition into Further and Higher Education from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • Role of Student Services and Education Support.
  • Student Finance and DSA.
  • Support with transition into College and University .
  • Support throughout the year and reasonable adjustments.
  • What you can expect from the move into early adulthood.
  • Outline what rights autistic young people have to support and advice from the health, education and career services to plan this transition.

Advice on how autistic young people and parents can make informed choices.


Lisa Burns- NRC Student Finance Coordinator
Emma Porritt- NRC Education Support Coordinator
Stephen McCartney- NRC Head of Student Services
Sarah Harte – AccessAbility Adviser Ulster University Jordanstown/Belfast
Christina Curran – Education and Transitions Advice Coordinator  for National Autistic Society (Northern Ireland)

Pictured left to right

Meeting ID: 885 7364 3050
Passcode: 475677

Follow up materials available here.

Follow up materials available here.

Follow up materials available here.

26th September 2022
Living with Anxiety from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • What is anxiety?
  • What causes anxiety?
  • What anxiety feels like.
  • Tips for managing anxiety.

Facilitator: Helen McGahan, Health and wellbeing specialist for Usel. Helen facilitates workshops and 1-2-1 sessions for the clients on the Stride project in Usel. She specialises in health and wellbeing, and she provides employer training on Disability & Autism awareness.

Meeting ID: 841 1091 3593
Passcode: 480076

Follow up materials available here.

31st October 2022
Yoga session from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • The session will cover breathing exercises, warm ups, some yoga stretches, then winding down into relaxation.
  • Previous experience, fancy equipment or being particularly flexible is not needed. Just wear something comfortable and maybe have some water nearby.
  • Everything will be guided and relaxed with modifications given to allow you to go at your own pace or push yourself a little deeper.

Facilitator: Anita O’Connell from Sanctuary Yoga

Meeting ID: 879 4664 3664
Passcode: 681225

28th November 2022
All Out Discussion Workshop from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • What does LGBTQI+ mean?
  • Discuss questions
  • How to be more LGBTQI+ inclusive

Facilitator: Jo McParland – Education and Training Manager for Cara Friend. Deliver training to those who would like to know more about the LGBTQI+ community.

Meeting ID: 868 1097 6745
Passcode: 473167

Follow up materials available here.

19th December 2022
Family Support for Autistic Parents from 1.30pm

We support families where a parent has a learning difficulty or is autistic.  We work with expectant and new parents with children under five to support them by building confidence, develop skills and make them more connected to their communities.

  • This session will give an overview of what NOW Group Family Support can do as well as answer any questions or queries.

Facilitator: Claire Hanna – Family Service Project Officer North East Area Now Group.

Meeting ID: 898 7686 6414
Passcode: 107300

30th January 2023
Dietary Needs from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • Why a balanced diet is important?
  • What is a balanced diet and how to achieve it?
  • Recipe and meal/snack ideas .
  •  Food aversion.

Facilitators: The Health Improvement Dietetic Team within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Meeting ID: 851 5105 9861
Passcode:  782181
NAAAS Presentation Jan 2023  Password: NAAASJAN

27th February 2023
Coffee and Catch -Up from 1.30pm

This session will cover:

  • Introduction round.
  • Sharing of interests.
  • Advice, if appropriate.
  • Check in about future sessions.

Facilitator: Nicola Elder – Adult ASD Practitioner within the Adult ASD Service, NHSCT.

Meeting ID: 873 1327 7226
Passcode: 518946

Follow up materials available here.

27th March 2023
Specialisterne NI; WHO,WHY, WHERE AND HOW from 1.30pm

Specialisterne NI is a community interest company which supports autistic and neurodivergent people to get ready for, secure, and progress in rewarding careers.

This session will cover:

  • Changing the dialogue around being autistic.
  • Connecting with each other over shared interests, experiences and encouraging each other.
  • Aiming towards building a sense of confidence, identity and a feeling of resilience.

Facilitators: Sharon is Founder and Managing Director of Specialisterne NI.

Meeting ID: 883 6041 8534
Passcode: 768940


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