Category Archives: Features

Two women wearing green t-shirts and lanyards

Northern Trust appeal for Macmillan volunteer drivers

Could you spare some time to support people living with cancer?

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is now seeking new volunteers to join its Macmillan Driving Team, with a specific focus on the Causeway Coast and Glens area including Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballycastle, Castlerock, Portrush and Portstewart.

Explaining more about what’s involved, Macmillan Volunteer Coordinator, Nicola McAleese said: “As one of our drivers, you will take service users to and from their home or place of residence to Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital where they will receive their chemotherapy treatment.

“Unfortunately not everyone is able to access reliable, safe or affordable transport so our volunteer drivers play an invaluable role by helping to get them to the hospital, and back home again, in a safe and timely way.

“Volunteers will use their own car, and the time commitment involved will vary depending on the individual service user.

“New volunteers will receive an induction, relevant training and ongoing support, and they can look forward to joining a very friendly team.”


This includes people like Elizabeth Gray and Eileen Black who have devoted over 25 years to volunteering between them.

Reflecting on her own experience, Elizabeth said: “It’s a hugely rewarding experience to know that you are helping to support people affected by cancer in your local community. I feel both honoured and privileged to be involved.”

Eileen added: “If you are helpful and caring, can offer companionship, and have an ability to make people feel at ease, then this volunteer role could be for you. Please consider if you could give any time and get in touch.”


To be considered as a volunteer driver, applicants need to meet specific requirements:

  • Hold a full clean driving licence
  • Have valid car insurance and MOT
  • Must never have been disqualified from driving or had licence removed

Mileage expenses will be paid, and all volunteers will need to complete an AccessNI check.

To find out more, or if you want to request an application pack, please email  or telephone 028 9442 4000 and request extension 336531.

The closing date is 12pm on Friday 19 April 2024.

Person holding a pen and writing in a book

Expressions of autism through creative writing

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has worked in partnership with Ulster University, Coleraine, to host a creative writing course for autistic adults ahead of World Autism Acceptance Week.

Themed around ‘What autism means to me’, the group composed a range of different pieces, drawing on their thoughts, life experiences, emotions and feelings.

Reflecting on its success, the Northern Trust’s Public Health Autism Coordinator Jayne Colville, said: “The course offered individuals a creative outlet to tell their stories, and showcase their talent.

“They developed material together, and on their own, and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all involved.

“So much fabulous, insightful material was written during the six weeks, like the examples we have included below, that we’re now looking in to getting them published as a collective piece of creative writing.

“This will allow the group to further tell their story, with the aim of creating more understanding amongst the general public.”


Mask by Elvin

Trapped by the constant need to change

It’s not a mask it’s an accommodation

To the “other”, to facilitate communication

An Act in two parts to make the story flow

To engage or sometimes to prevent engagement with

The creature in below


The following is an excerpt from a piece written by Sarah, thinking back to a primary school disco.

Nerves knot my stomach, but the pulsing lights and thumping music wash over me like a

tidal wave, drawing me into their current. This space, it exists between worlds, a rebellion

against the humdrum. “Can’t we just have kaleidoscopic lights, art, music and glitter balls

everywhere?” I think.

Racing to the dancefloor I weighed the expectations against my own desires. My classmates

hadn’t arrived yet, so tentatively, I began to spin and sway.

My body unburdens of its anxieties, and remembers its native language, a language of

uninhibited expression, and it speaks in fluid gestures against the swirling canvas of light.

In this moment, I am not defined by labels or limitations, but by the boundless energy that

courses through my veins. I dance, and it is freedom. The swirling disco ball lights, the neon

flashes and the bass drum thumping at my heart. It is a sensory heaven.




overlooking the exterior of Causeway Hospital

Causeway Hospital recruitment opportunities

“What I love most about working in Causeway Hospital is the sense of community,” Dr Fergal Dunn.

If you would like to be a part of this community, we are currently recruiting for the following full-time positions as we continue to build our team at Causeway Hospital:

Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine
NHSCT Acute Consultant in Medicine – HSCNI Jobs

Speciality Doctor in Acute Medicine
NHSCT Speciality Doctor, Acute Medicine – HSCNI Jobs

Applications close at 4pm on Fri 5 April.

Strategic Vision

The Northern Trust recently unveiled its vision for Causeway Hospital, restating its commitment to the hospital’s “bright future”.

The Vision outlines the Trust’s ambition to develop and enhance the Causeway site, focussing on same day emergency care, elective care and cancer services, and reshaping mental health provision to meet the needs of the local population. It also highlights how Causeway Hospital is perfectly positioned to become an elective and diagnostic hub for the entire North West area.

Causeway Hospital – A Strategic Vision

Download the Causeway Hospital Strategic Vision (PDF, 16 pages, 4MB).

Vision for Causeway Hospital paves the way to bright future



Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist Michelle Reid in uniform.

Showcasing the ‘invaluable’ role of Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialists

“No one wants to go through a cancer journey but with the support of people like Michelle, it is possible to get through it.”

As we mark National Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist Day on Friday 15 March, a Northern Health and Social Care Trust patient has provided a moving account of the care she received during her treatment for skin cancer.

Catherine Nicholl, from Jordanstown, was introduced to Clinical Nurse Specialist Michelle Reid at Antrim Area Hospital following her diagnosis in 2019.

Earlier this month they had their final appointment together, which Catherine described as a ‘bitter sweet day’ in light of her experience.


“Whilst I am over the moon that I am at the end of the journey in terms of my treatment and care, I am going to miss the reassuring presence of Michelle in my life, she said.

“I first met her in March 2019 after my diagnosis. It was a frightening time for myself and my family but Michelle very quickly became a calm port in the storm. She talked through all the procedures for us and helped us understand each step in the process but her greatest value was the time she took with us.

“We were never left feeling rushed when we met her and she just let us talk. A cancer diagnosis can leave you very lonely and alone. Particularly in the early days you meet so many different medical professionals, rarely the same faces, and it can be overwhelming.

“Friends and family often do not know how to react and you can feel you have no one to talk to.  Michelle listened to my fears and let the tears fall. Meeting regularly and being checked over was also reassuring for me in the months and years after the surgery.

“The continuity of having the same person to talk formed what felt like a friendship. I am grateful for the surgeon and the nursing staff whose care I was under, but, for me, the most important person in this whole process has been Michelle. She listened, gave professional advice in a personal and understandable way and most importantly it was clear she cared.  No one wants to go through a cancer journey but with the support of people like Michelle, it is possible to get through it. Her service was invaluable and I will be forever grateful.”

Offering support

For Michelle, who has been a CNS for the past seven years, supporting patients is what’s most important to her: “I love my role, and although I discuss and offer advice regarding diagnosis and treatment, what matters most to me is working closely with patients and their families, and showing them that you care at such a vulnerable time in their life.

“I am passionate about effective communication, and being able to listen to patients and establish a connection allows me to build trust which is really important, especially during difficult conversations.

“I see the patient not as a diagnosis but as a whole person, with family and friends, hobbies and interests, and I focus on this as we build our relationship throughout the patient journey.”

In 2021, Michelle and her colleagues in the skin cancer team received UK-wide Macmillan Excellence Award while last year they were runners-up in the Northern Trust’s Chair’s Awards.

National Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist Day was established to showcase the role, and the important role it plays as part of multidisciplinary team committed to enhancing cancer care.

As the key worker for patients with a cancer diagnosis, they act as a point of contact from diagnosis onwards for patients, families and carers.

They actively encourage the promotion of health, health protection and prevention of ill health by empowering people to make choices and take responsibility for their own health decisions and behaviours and offer vital support so people can manage their own care where possible.

Catherine Nicholl
Catherine Nicholl, from Jordanstown, met Clinical Nurse Specialist Michelle Reid following her cancer diagnosis.


















Three foster carers receiving gifts from a Northern Trust representative at the recent Appreciation Day

Successful Foster Carers Appreciation Day held in Coleraine

Jean Hayley recognised by the Northern Trust as she prepares to retire after a lifetime of fostering

Three foster carers who have collectively devoted over 90 years to helping children and young people were among those recognised at a recent Appreciation Day hosted by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Jean Hayley, Kay Anderson and Barbara Caldwell from the Ballymoney area, who are the longest serving foster carers in the Northern area, have dedicated their lives to providing short-term, long-term and emergency care to those in need.

The Appreciation Event, held at the Lodge Hotel in Coleraine, was an extra special one for Jean, as she is now preparing to retire.

Throughout her long fostering journey, she has provided care for over 120 children and remains in contact with many of those who shared their homes through the years. She is a previous recipient of the NI Foster Carer of the Year award from the Fostering Network, and in 2012 she was honoured with an MBE alongside her husband Tim for services to children and families.

Encouraging new foster carers to come forward, Jean said: “I would recommend fostering to anyone who believes they can offer a child a safe and loving home.

“There will be bumps in the road but I am testament that working in partnership with children, showing empathy and understanding, can lead to good outcomes.”


Denise Mullan, Senior Practitioner in the Northern Trust’s fostering team, said:

“Our recent Appreciation Day was an opportunity to celebrate the positive impact of our foster carers, and we want to thank all of them for their service and kindness.

“We are blessed to have such amazing foster carers, like Kay, Jean and Barbara, who have always been just a phone call away and willing to help out in any way they could. They are all an integral part of fostering in the Northern Trust.

“To say Jean will be greatly missed is a huge understatement. We wish her a very happy retirement, and thank her for everything she has done through her fostering career.

“We were delighted to see such a great turn out at our Appreciation Day and we hope all our foster carers enjoyed spending time together in this way.

“We are very grateful to Body & Mind, Garvagh who provided a range of complementary and alternative healing therapies, as well as Boots in Coleraine, Heather Stevenson from Take Five Steps to Wellbeing and TES Contracts Ltd for their support and generous donations which helped to make the event such a success.”

Get involved

With 3155 children and young people living in foster care in Northern Ireland and an increasing number of children coming into care, the need for more foster carers has never been greater.

Foster carers are ordinary people who do an extraordinary thing by supporting children and young people at a time when they need it most. There are different ways you can help depending on your lifestyle and family circumstances as not all foster care requires a full-time commitment.

The fostering community is made up of a diverse range of foster carers with lots of different experience and skills. You can foster whether you’re married, a couple or are single, you own or rent your home, you work or are unemployed or whether you are a parent or not.

Enquiries are welcomed from people from all walks of life regardless of race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Foster carers receive lots of support, tailored training and ongoing development opportunities as well as financial allowances.

If you think you could make a difference in a young person’s life, please get in touch to find out more: Call 0800 0720 137 or visit

A loudhailer graphic with a blue and white background

Medicine and Emergency Medicine Service User Engagement Panel

Get involved!

Would you be interested in joining our new Medicine and Emergency Medicine Service User Engagement Panel?

We want to work with members of the public as part of our commitment to ongoing development and improvement.

Panel members will meet on a quarterly basis to share their experiences and discuss improvement projects.

Feedback will be used to inform plans and decisions.

While the Division has engaged with service users on an ongoing basis around various topics it would now like to create a more formal structure for engagement.

The panel will include staff and service users and its overall aim is to ensure personal and public involvement on the development, design and improvement of Medicine and Emergency Medicine services within the Northern Trust

Different topics/projects will be discussed at each meeting.

These could include, but not limited to:

  • Phone First
  • Enhance Care Project (EPCO)
  • Discharges from Hospital
  • Rapid Access Pathways
  • Frailty Pathways

Programme of work

Service users and carers who get involved with this panel will:

  • Share experiences, knowledge, insight, and expertise.
  • Review and comment on papers, proposals, and plans.
  • Provide input into plans and decisions.
  • Bring issues and concerns from service users and carers to the group.
  • Represent and provide a service user and carer perspective.
  • Utilise the expertise, knowledge, and skills of service users and carers.
  • Inform, shape, and influence plans and decisions.


Panel members will be provided with the following support to fulfil this role:

  • Introductory session to enable potential members to decide if this is an area they want to become involved in.
  • Meetings will be either in-person or online – whichever is more convenient to members.
  • Meeting dates will be agreed at least one calendar month in advance and agendas/papers will be sent to all panel members one week before the date of the meeting.

Reimbursement for out of pocket expenses which includes travel costs and the payment of replacement care.

Personal skills and abilities

The following are the skills, abilities, personal qualities and attributes which will be required from panel members:

  • Able to contribute to group discussions from either a Service User or a Carers’ perspective
  • Be a good communicator
  • Respect and recognise different viewpoints
  • Ability to commit their time to the panel which will involve
    • Pre-meeting reading
    • Attendance at quartetly meetings for one calendar year – each meeting will last approximately one hour and will be conducted either in-person at Antrim Area Hospital or online via Microsoft Teams
  • Agree to confidentiality if requested.

As an initial step, we intend to hold an initial information session on Monday 25 March to discuss the role of the panel and its format.

If you are interested in attending this session, or if you like to find out more, please get in touch before 5pm on Wed 13 March.

Email or ring 07548 946858.




A little boy smiles while inside a colourful play tunnel

Sensory Regulation Parent Workshops

The Children’s Occupational Therapy Service is holding a series of Sensory Regulation Workshops for parents and carers.

The workshops will include a presentation by Occupational Therapists, and will last approximately 2.5 hours with a short break in the middle. Parents are welcome to speak to the therapists and ask questions at the end. Advice leaflets will be available to take home.

After the workshop, your child will not need to be seen by Occupational Therapy unless a further request for support is indicated.

Please note, children should not attend these sessions.

You do not need to book or make a referral to Occupational Therapy to attend.

Upcoming dates

  • Thursday 25 April 2024, 6:30pm, Ballymena North Centre, 120 Cushendall Road, Ballymena, BT43 6HB
  • Tuesday 21 May 2024, 11am, Amphitheatre Wellness Centre, Prince William Way, Carrickfergus,BT38 7HP

Watch on Zoom

If you are unable to attend a session you can watch a recording of the presentation at home.

Sensory Regulation Parent Workshop on Zoom

Representation of two pink and white paper bags, filled with different contraceptive methods.

What do you know about contraception?

Sexual Health Week takes place from February 12 -18.

With a range of contraception options to choose from, we’re supporting the Public Health Agency’s campaign to ensure that you can find the contraception that works best for you.

We had a chat with Dr Sharon Porter, Northern Trust Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Consultant, to find out more.

Dr Sharon Porter

Can you tell us what contraceptive services the Northern Trust offers?

In the Northern Trust we provide a variety of contraceptive methods and advice about your sexual and reproductive health, free of charge.

It’s important to remember that contraception is required until menopause and if used correctly has a high chance of preventing pregnancy. There are many types of contraception available and we can help you decide. Long acting reversible methods include the copper coil (IUD), hormonal coil (IUS), implant and injectables or we can offer short acting approaches such as pills. Don’t forget that only condoms can protect against both Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

Emergency contraception (pills and coil) can also be provided. If you require emergency contraception the sooner you act, the better. Appointments are available on a same day basis so please don’t delay.

Where can I access these services?

Confidential contraception and sexual health services are provided across four locations in the Northern Trust – Causeway Hospital, Braid Valley in Ballymena, Mid Ulster Hospital and Glengormley Community Clinics.

Healthcare professionals such as GPs can refer to this service but most people prefer to self-refer through the central booking number on 028 2826 6163 which is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.

Contraception is also available free of charge from your GP, pharmacist, online from SH:24 and Common Youth if under 25.

Can young people access your service?

Our services are available for all those requiring contraception, irrespective of age. Common Youth also specifically provide contraception for those under 25.

For people who haven’t accessed contraceptive services in the Northern Trust before what is your message for them?

Our vision is that all those within the Northern Trust can promptly access a compassionate, confidential, non-judgemental service which supports their right to reproductive choice. Get in touch so we can help you with this aspect of your healthcare.

Can you tell us a bit about abortion services?

Abortion services are provided by the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. The type of abortion service available will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are.

Early abortion services for pregnancies less than 12 weeks are fully established. Medical abortion is available for pregnancies up to 24 weeks (and over 24 weeks in limited circumstances).

Surgical abortion is available for up to 20 weeks and work is ongoing to establish a service for pregnancies up to 24 weeks.

For abortion services that are not yet available in Northern Ireland, you can access free abortion care in Great Britain.

How does a woman access this service?

To get abortion care, you must contact the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) which offers advice, counselling and access to abortion services.

BPAS can be contacted by completing an online booking form or by calling 0345 730 4030.

Read more about contraceptive services in the Northern Trust.





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





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).