Category Archives: 2023

Health and Social Care logo on blue background

Joint statement by Chief Executives of Health and Social Care Trusts

We are deeply concerned that the planned industrial action on Thursday 18 January will have a profound impact on our services, which are already under enormous strain.

The disruption will be on a massive and unprecedented scale.

Minimal and emergency services only will be available throughout Northern Ireland, similar to Christmas Day, at best.

It is a tragedy that our colleagues, who are the backbone of our Health and Social Care service, feel they have no alternative but to take this action.

We would repeat our call for all staff to be properly rewarded for their work.

They understandably feel aggrieved that their counterparts in the rest of the UK have received a pay award, while they continue to work incredibly hard without receiving the same recognition, particularly during a period of high cost of living increases. To add to their immense frustration, they have been told publicly that funding for a pay award is potentially available, but not yet released.

As Chief Executives, we have repeatedly and publicly called for a long-term funding settlement for health and social care in Northern Ireland that addresses central issues including waiting lists, recruitment and pay in a sustainable manner.

We have been struggling with a system where funding has been allocated on a yearly basis, which makes it impossible to plan for the long term.

There is so much to put right in health and social care. Much-needed progress has been critically hampered by multiple years of political and budgetary instability.

As the extreme pressures on the Health and Social Care service continue unabated, the position is increasingly unsustainable.

We would like to sincerely thank all our staff for their continued dedication, in really difficult circumstances.


Young Carers who attended the Trust Board meeting

Praise for young carers as they share their experiences with Northern Trust Board

Young carers have shared their personal stories with senior leaders at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

They were invited to attend a recent Trust Board meeting where they talked candidly about their caring roles, and described how caring for a family member from a young age had impacted on their own lives.

Speaking afterwards, chair of the Northern Trust Board, Anne O’Reilly, commended them for their “remarkable resilience and maturity”.

“It was both a privilege and a pleasure to hear from these young people. Their words carried real impact for everyone in the room; their stories were very powerful and moving,” said Ms O’Reilly.

“I, along with the Chief Executive, have given a commitment that we will open up regular engagement with these young carers so that there can be listening, learning and communication around some of the barriers and constraints that exist around getting the right support in place to help ease the burden on young people who are providing a full-time caring role for a loved one.”

The Northern Trust’s Head of Equality, Alison Irwin, who attended the Board Meeting with the young people, said: “Earlier this year our Carer Hub hosted a group of young carers who met with Trust staff to discuss how caring affects them.

“They asked if they could return and meet with Senior Leaders so we were delighted to facilitate this on Carers Rights Day when we welcomed three young carers to attend Trust Board.

“The theme of ‘your rights: today, tomorrow and in the future’ allowed the young carers, with the support of Barnardo’s Young Carers Service, to discuss what caring as a young person is like and what support can make a difference to them.”

Eileen Maguire, from Barnardo’s NI, said: “We are immensely proud of our young carers and their dedication is second to none. They are deeply committed not just to the people that they care for but to ensuring that other young carers just like them have the support that they need.

“Young carers have unique burdens placed on them and it is remarkable to see how they meet these challenges. We see this every day in our work at Barnardo’s. Their own words are testament to just how difficult things can be for them at times. One young carer said that ‘I was never asked how I felt or indeed what supports I thought might help me or my family, yet I was the one who was doing all the caring’ and another: ‘I had to take on responsibilities that even an adult would struggle with.’

“We are grateful to the Northern Trust Board for meeting young carers and hope that they will continue to listen to their concerns and work to help them in every way possible.”

If you are a young carer who provides support to a sibling or parent, the Carer Hub at the Northern Trust can help to signpost you to support opportunities.

The Hub is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm by ringing 028 2766 1210 or email to find out more.



Mum Jill holds baby Jenson, sitting beside midwife Jess.

Celebrating the success of the Continuity of Midwifery Carer Model

A special event has taken place in Causeway Hospital celebrating the success of the Continuity of Midwifery Carer model in the Northern Trust.

This holistic approach to maternity care, from pregnancy, through to birth and the post-natal period, is transforming the service and enhancing the experiences of mums-to-be.

During the event, two mums spoke about their positive experiences under the care of the Lotus team of midwives, with their testimony highlighting the high standard of antenatal, maternity and postnatal care it espouses.

The concept was first introduced in the Trust in 2020, and it recently aligned with a regionally-agreed model which operates across Northern Ireland. Plans are now underway to build on this as part of a phased roll-out across the Trust area.

Speaking at the event, Chief Executive Jennifer Welsh commended the innovative work of the Northern Trust to date: “You have been trail-blazers with this approach, and the last three years have provided a lot of beneficial learning right across Northern Ireland.

“We recognise the benefits of providing this seamless and integrated care, and we know the evidence-based outcomes around this. I am delighted to be here and I want to say congratulations to all of our staff, and to the mums, dads and babies who have joined us today.”

Reflecting on the positive impact of the model so far, Rachel Chakravarti, Lead Midwife for Continuity of Midwifery Carer within the Northern Trust, commented, “We are delighted to be able to offer this model of care which is having a hugely successful impact on our women, regardless of their midwifery, obstetric or specialist needs.

“It means they are cared for in a small team of known midwives throughout their pregnancy right through to the early parenting period. A named midwife co-ordinates their care and a known midwife supports them during birth, whether that is in hospital or at home.

“We have been greatly encouraged by the positive experiences of the mums we have looked after to date, with the model proven to deliver safe, personalised and enhanced maternity care.”

Continuity of Midwifery Carer feedback

“My anxiety and stress levels were so high until I met with the Lotus team. They made me feel at ease and were always there at the other end of the phone if I needed extra support.”

“….can honestly say if it wasn’t for the help from my Lotus my pregnancy would have been very different.”

“I feel happy to have had such a great team. I would say to anyone expecting a baby please, please consider the Lotus team.”




Two women work together with a laptop sitting on a table in front of them.

Community Mental Health Team Recruitment Day

We are recruiting now for exciting and fulfilling roles within our Community Mental Health Team based in the Carrick, Larne and Newtownabbey areas.

Various permanent, temporary, full-time, part-time and bank positions are available for:

Please come along to our Recruitment Day on Saturday 3 February 2024 in Corr’s Corner Hotel, Newtownabbey from 9.30am – 12.00pm where you will be able to complete an application form and be interviewed on the day.

Staff will be there to answer any questions you might have.

These roles offer a minimum 37 days holiday pro-rata (inclusive of statutory days), along with training and paid travel mileage where applicable.

teamNORTH Benefits Brochure





Phone First 0300 123 1123

Phone First appeal from the Northern Trust

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is appealing to the public to use its Phone First service to help ensure people get the right care in the right place when they are unwell.

The triage service is aimed at anyone who is considering attending Antrim Area or Causeway Hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) or the Mid Ulster Hospital Minor Injuries Unit, with an injury or illness which is not immediately life-threatening. It is available every Monday-Friday from 8am-6pm, excluding bank holidays.

By phoning first on 0300 123 1 123, your condition, or that of the person you are calling on behalf of, will be clinically assessed.

You will then be directed to the most appropriate care pathway for your needs which may mean attending a hospital ED or Minor Injuries Unit, or attending your local GP, GP Out-of-Hours or pharmacy. Depending on the nature of your condition you could be provided with advice on self-care for management of your symptoms at home.

Explaining more, Audrey Harris, Director of Medicine and Emergency Medicine: “It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell can access the care that they need.

“By using Phone First you will receive a timely, clinical assessment, which will direct you to the correct service, helping to avoid unnecessary travel and potential long waits at our Emergency Departments.

“While we continue to experience sustained pressures all year round, the winter period traditionally brings increased demand on our acute services, particularly around unscheduled, emergency care, and Phone First is one way we can try to ease this.

“It is an excellent service, so please use it for all urgent, but not life threatening, injuries and illnesses so we can ensure you receive the care that you need depending on your condition.”

Phone First Frequently Asked Questions


Homeless Health Nurse Sharon Graham with sea in the background.

Putting a focus back on life

During Homelessness Awareness Week (December 4 – 10), the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has highlighted an innovative scheme aimed at hostel residents.

The Health Education & Lifestyles Programme (HELP) aims to provide healthy lifestyle information which will have a long-lasting positive impact on participants’ futures.

Initial health assessments by Sharon Graham, the Northern Trust’s Homeless Health Nurse, often identify poor diets, sedentary lifestyles and specific health issues which the multi-faceted project seeks to address.

The HELP scheme is designed to enhance knowledge and skills around the benefits of taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle, including how a nutritious diet can aid physical and mental health. It offers workshops on basic cooking skills and guidance around health and safety of food, preparing them for healthy living beyond the hostel.

Together with the provision of sports and physical activities such as walking and gardening, it encourages communication, skills development and promotes a sense of achievement.

Empirical evidence would highlight that those residing in hostels find engagement difficult, so prior to the commencement of the programme, Sharon works with the men to gain their interest, and this active involvement in the planning stages subsequently aids positive participation in the programme.

Arts and culture play a huge part in the emotional wellbeing of the client group, and as part of this, Belfast Exposed, based in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast city centre, was approached by the Northern Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Team to facilitate a therapeutic photography workshop with a group of men from the hostel.

Running since early November, the workshop has enabled Belfast Exposed’s Community Engagement Team to hold weekly sessions with the group of men, teaching them new skills in digital photography and how to get the best out of their mobile phones in terms of lighting, angles and exposure.

Numbers attending continue to grow week on week as more and more of the hostel’s residents learn of the benefits and positive effects the short visits are having on those that have come to learn something new, get out and about, and use photography as a way to channel their emotions or as a way of telling their story.

One man highlighted, “I am really loving the photography, I would be just sitting in my room doing nothing, it is great to get out and do something different.”

Other men have emphasised the benefits of being out in the countryside and how the photography has made them look closer at the environment around them.

Some of the men who would not usually take up such activities have heard feedback from others and have since joined in themselves, and this in itself is being hailed as a positive outcome of the initiative.

Team leaders from the Northern Trust recognise the significant impact these sessions have had. Nicola Arbuckle, the Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Manager, said, “One of the key aims of the Northern Trust’s Arts and Wellbeing Strategy is to improve health and wellbeing through wider access to, and involvement in, the arts.

“We are delighted that we have been able to engage men from the Hostel in this photography project with Belfast Exposed. This project is helping to combat social isolation, improve mental health, and connect those involved with their local community and natural environment.

“It is amazing to see such positive outcomes in a short space of time and to be able to enrich the lives of those impacted by homelessness.”

For Sharon, in her role as Homeless Health Nurse, she has witnessed first-hand how much the men are enjoying the photography sessions.

“It has also been really interesting to hear the chats among the men. They are communicating with those they maybe would not usually engage with, and the conversations are positive and encouraging about lots of different things.

“Personally, I am thoroughly enjoying the sessions and I certainly don’t want them to end, as, among so much else, it also provides a relaxed and informal environment for us to check in with the men and see how they are getting on which is vital for relationship and trust building.”

Homelessness Awareness Week 2023

To mark Homelessness Awareness Week 2023, Sharon took part in the Housing Executive’s ‘Stories by the Stones’ project.

This series of short films features individuals talking about their own personal experiences of homelessness as well as representatives from different partner organisations discussing the support which is available in the Causeway area.

Homelessness Awareness Week 2023 Stories by the Stones


Joanne Currie holds her Nurse of the Year award.

Success for Northern Trust staff at Healthcare and Keyworker Awards

Three members of staff from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust were among the winners at the recent Healthcare and Keyworker Awards 2023 organised by Families First NI.

Lead Nurse for Palliative Care Joanne Currie was named Nurse of the Year, Personality Disorder Practitioner Simon Murphy won the Services in the Community award, and midwife Kirsty Deal received the Specialist Nurse award for her work on the Continuity of Midwifery Care model.

Joanne’s nomination followed her work on developing and improving palliative care services for patients and their families.

Reflecting on her role, Joanne said: “I have worked in the Trust for 23 years and have always felt supported and encouraged throughout my nursing career. I feel very privileged to work in specialist palliative care and after 23 years I still love my job. While my current role is less clinical now, I am excited to be able to assist with developing and improving palliative care services, with the overarching focus of improving quality of life of patients and that of their loved ones who are facing challenges associated with a life limiting condition.”

Simon Murphy received the Services in the Community award in recognition of his work as part of the Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) treatment team, providing group and one-to-one therapy for people diagnosed with a personality disorder.

The team provides assessments, consultations, treatments and reflective practice to assist families, carers and other professionals to manage their condition while Simon has also been involved in using creative arts as a recovery tool for service users, recording and performing music with them and other professionals as well.

Simon said: “The Trust has been very supportive of me in the past in several ways; primarily in helping me access a Masters course in Psychotherapeutic Approaches in Mental Health. I undertook at 20,000 word thesis focusing on the experience of staff who make referrals to specialist services in England to manage patients with severe disturbance and complex needs.

Our team always strives to keep up to date on the latest developments in psychotherapy while fostering a culture of learning that is psychoanalytically informed.

“This award comes as I mark two years since I suffered a series of strokes that required medical procedures and an extended time convalescing. I was able to gain an insight of that it was like to be a vulnerable patient at a time of uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic and I always try to retain a thoughtful, caring stance when helping service users who present to our service.”

Midwife Kirsty Deal, winner of the Specialist Nurse award, has worked in the Trust for over 20 years.

Reflecting on her award, she said: “I had the opportunity to be part of the team behind the first Continuity of Midwifery Care scheme in Northern Ireland.

“This has become my dream job. My role involves advocating for women and their families, educating them so they can advocate for themselves, and making choices that are right for them.

“All this is possible because the senior management in midwifery within the Trust knew this was the best way forward for maternity services and the families we meet.

“Being nominated for an award was incredibly humbling. I am so moved, but to actually win on the night was unbelievable.”

Congratulations also go to Grainne O’Boyle who was Highly Commended in the Nurse of the Year category and Deirdre Tolton, Highly Commended in the Specialist Nurse category. 



Anna Cahoon holds her letter from Buckingham Palace with two members of staff either side of her,

Letter from The King makes it a birthday to remember for Anna

A member of Larne Adult Centre had a birthday to remember this month when she received a personal letter from Buckingham Palace.

Anna Cahoon celebrated her special day on November 12 and she decided to contact King Charles after learning that it was his birthday during November as well.

With help from her Support Worker Catherine Whiteford, she took the opportunity to tell His Majesty a little about her life in Larne and the activities she enjoys including drama and circle skills.

Explaining how the idea came about, Catherine said: “It was all down to Anna herself – she was so excited when she discovered the King’s birthday date wasn’t too far away from her own so she wanted to send a letter.

“We told him how it was her birthday in November and about how much she enjoys attending the Adult Centre with her friends and what she likes to do when she’s here.

“It was great to see Anna get so engaged in this and when we had the letter ready we took her down to the Post Office where the staff were so helpful because they could see how excited Anna was to be sending a letter to Buckingham Palace.

“We never expected to get a response so when an envelope arrived with the Royal crest on it and marked private and confidential we knew it could only mean one thing.”

The letter, which was sent on behalf of  The King by Thomas Claridge, Head of Royal Correspondence, is now Anna’s most prized possession. In it, the King said he was pleased to learn that it was also her birthday in November and how he hoped it would be a wonderful day of celebrations.



Neonatal Unit staff members with a baby and the MUM award.

Award success for Antrim Area Hospital neonatal team

A heartfelt nomination from first-time parents has led to a prestigious award for the neonatal team at Antrim Area Hospital.

It was selected as a regional winner at the Baby Lifeline UK Maternity Unit Marvels (MUM) Awards which provide an opportunity to thank healthcare staff and showcase their commitment to providing the best possible care.

Ahead of the awards ceremony, families were invited to share their experiences of exceptional care which helped to ensure their babies were born safely and given the chance to thrive, often in difficult circumstances.

Reflecting on their experience, the parents who nominated the team in Antrim, said:  “Becoming first time parents is a daunting experience for every couple, but giving birth to a baby at 29 weeks gestation is a trepidation like no other.

“Our firstborn daughter arrived into the world on 21 January 2023 in Antrim Area Hospital after spontaneous pre-term labour. Our 1.4kg child was whisked away to a ward we were unaware existed – the Neonatal Unit.

“I vividly recall walking onto the unit for the first time; startling bleeps and timid cries were soon muffled out by warm hellos and empathetic eyes.

“‘Staff’ isn’t how I would describe the individuals working on that ward; temporary surrogate caregivers, 3am confidantes, protectors of the vulnerable and advocates of life are badges they should wear with pride.

“Individuals so uniquely talented, professional and passionate, that you, as brand new, terrified parents can sleep at night knowing that your tiny baby is being cared for by the NICU team.

“The team that fought in our corner, who enabled us to function and persevere through a complex web of new experiences. A ward which warmed our souls with a plethora of books, delicately chosen works of art, and private rooms of oasis.

“A team which our newly formed family will never forget. I hope that this nomination goes some way in expressing my gratitude, because one million ‘thank you’s’ would never be enough.”

Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Sanjeev Bali, accepted the award on behalf of the Neonatal Unit in Antrim, at the  ceremony which took place in London.

He was also honoured to attend a private reception at Downing Street to celebrate the winning teams.

Reflecting on their success, Sister Karen Devlin said: “We are very grateful to the family who nominated us, and to Baby Lifeline UK, for recognising the team in this way.

“The Neonatal Unit is a very special place, and it is a privilege for us to be able to support our most vulnerable babies and their families as well. This award was made possible by the collective effort of everyone who works in the unit, and I am immensely proud of the team. I want to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to them for everything they do, every day.”

David Tennant, Ambassador for Baby Lifeline, said: “I am proud to support Baby Lifeline’s 2023 MUM Awards to celebrate the incredible stories of heroic healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to deliver babies safely, especially when faced with complications that can be very distressing for parents. As a dad of five, I know exactly what this feels like and how important it is to have these wonderful individuals and teams around you during this time.”

Six members of staff pictured with a Diabetes Prevention Programme pop-up banner.

Diabetes Prevention Programme cuts type 2 diabetes risk for hundreds in the Northern Trust

“I feel fantastic and it’s all thanks to this programme!”

Lucie from the North Coast area is currently taking part in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP).

She has spoken about the positive impact it has had on her health and wellbeing ahead of World Diabetes Day on November 14 2023.

Initially encouraged to join by her GP during ‘a very uncomfortable call’ where she learned she was at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Lucie is now half-way through the programme and is already noticing a vast improvement to her overall health.

One of the most common long term health conditions in Northern Ireland, type 2 diabetes can have a devastating impact on people and their families. It’s a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and many common types of cancer.

But while the prevalence of the condition continues to increase, the preventative programme is making a difference.

Data collated over a four-year period within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has highlighted that 81% of pre-diabetic participants on the Diabetes Prevention Programme reduced their blood sugar levels and 74% lost weight.

Reflecting on her personal experience, Lucie said: “I have had raised blood sugar levels for a few years which I have tried to keep on top of with various crash diets and spurts of walking. Last October I had a very uncomfortable call from the doctor advising me that my blood sugar levels were now at the very top of the pre-diabetic range and he thought I would benefit from the programme.

“I imagine most people would be pleased to be offered such an opportunity but to be truthful I was cross and sulked and moaned until January when I tried to lose some weight myself, and dropped a couple of pounds.

“The letter inviting me to take part arrived in the spring and with very little grace I agreed to attend. My family and I had poor expectations, I had after all been morbidly obese most of my adult life. I knew what to do, I just never did it.

“I started the programme in May and I’m now halfway through. I report weekly steps and weight to Mark, my health coach. Some weeks I lose weight, some weeks I don’t but I don’t panic as I understand this isn’t a quick fix. It’s not a race nor a competition.  It’s a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life and it involves changing my mind set and behaviour, and I feel this is the strength of the programme. It provides sensible information, divided up in to sessions, and supports me along the way in a completely non-judgemental way so I can develop the skills to continue.

“I feel very fortunate to have Mark’s support, and to be part of the group who have made me laugh and enjoy the programme. The benefits have been far-reaching in our household, because my husband, who was also told he had pre-diabetic blood sugars, has lost weight and we have a very happy dog who gets more walks now than ever before!

“Now I’m starting the second half of the programme and I can say my blood sugar readings have dramatically improved – but how do I feel? Well how would you feel if your sleep wasn’t constantly disturbed by running to the loo or if you could go up a flight of stairs and not be short of breath? How would you feel if you lost four and a half stone since May? I feel fantastic and it’s all thanks to this programme.”

The Northern Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Manager Leesa Houston said: “We are very grateful to Lucie for sharing her story because it really helps to show what can be achieved through the Diabetes Prevention Programme.

“Our research indicates that 100s of people have been able to avoid developing type 2 diabetes, and the further health complications it can lead to, because of this early intervention.

“If your GP has told you that you are pre-diabetic this could be a life-saving programme for you. If you’ve been inspired by Lucie make this the month you take your first steps to better long-term health.”

For further information about participating on the Diabetes Prevention Programme within the Northern Trust please contact the team on 028 2563 5687 or visit the Diabetes Prevention programme webpage.

Pictured above are the Northern Trust’s Diabetes Prevention Programme Health Coaches Amy Elliott, Karen King, Mark McKane, Cherith Kane and Louise Crawford along with Health and Wellbeing Manager Leesa Houston (third from left).