Category Archives: Features

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).



A woman and young girl building a tower of blocks together.

Social care roles interview day

We are holding an Interview Day for Band 4 and 5 social care roles within our newly established residential children’s homes and short breaks services for children and young people with a learning disability (aged 5-18).

The event takes place on Saturday 18 November at the Northern Trust offices, Dublin Road, Antrim from 9.30am.

Final interviews will be held at 4pm with admissions closing at 3.15pm.

Roles are available in Coleraine and Ballymena.

If you are a caring and compassionate person and feel that you could support young people to reach their full potential then we would like to hear from you.

Full details about the posts are available in the job descriptions below.

Prospective candidates are encouraged to complete an application form and bring it to the interview day, or email your completed form to before 4pm on Wednesday 15 November 2023.

Application forms will also be made available on the day for anyone who drops-in but if possible candidates are asked to complete the form in advance.

Band 4 Job Description

Band 4 Application Form

Band 5 Job Description

Band 5 Application Form

If you have any queries or would like further information please ring Karen Scott, Workforce Coordinator, on 07553178902.



Three nurses standing outside Antrim Area Hospital holding awards.

Student Excellence Award success for newly qualified Northern Trust nurses

The achievements of three newly qualified nurses, who completed their degrees through the Open University, have been recognised by the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council (NIPEC) for Nursing and Midwifery.

Shelley Taylor, who works within the Acute Medicine ward at Antrim Area Hospital, was recently presented with a Student Excellence Award, while Aiobhin McElroy and Gemma Harper were both highly commended.

Aiobhin is a nurse in the Direct Assessment Centre in Antrim and Gemma is a member of the Endoscopy team.

Shelley Taylor’s health and social care journey began in 2002 when she first joined the Northern Trust as a Child Health Assistant with the Public Health Nursing team.

Reflecting on her experience since then, she said:I initially completed an introductory course with the Open University which gave me a real sense of achievement so I decided to continue my studies.

“The Northern Trust and Open University partnership gave me the opportunity to further my career within healthcare by supporting me to study whilst working.

“My colleagues and the many members of staff I have met along the way have really supported me in my learning, helping me to reach my goals, and I am delighted to have received this recognition.

“Compassion and excellence are among the core values of the Northern Trust, and I have found this translates to staff, students and service users throughout the organisation, and I am now really looking forward to continuing my nursing career within the Trust.”

Aiobhin McElroy

For Aiobhin McElroy, starting as a Bank employee set her on the path to success after first planning to study nursing following secondary school: “I applied to do nursing but I didn’t pass the interview due to inadequate experience.

“I then got a bank job in treatment rooms and thoroughly enjoyed this but by then I had given up on my dream to become a nurse. I got seconded to work in the new Direct Assessment Unit and I was so nervous to start working in the hospital.

“I had no reason to worry because I instantly felt part of the team and this encouraged me to apply for a permanent Band 3 role. After a few months my manager asked me if I would consider studying nursing through the Open University and although I was apprehensive, I applied and was successful at interview.

“I am delighted to say after four years I passed my degree with First Class honours. I had given up on the idea but with the support of the Northern Trust and the Open University I was able to achieve this.

“I decided to begin my qualified nurse journey where the dream started, in the Direct Assessment Unit, and I am currently in the Preceptorship Programme. I would recommend the Open University degree to anyone who wishes to become a qualified nurse.”

Gemma Harper

Like Aiobhin, a nursing career was a long-held dream for Gemma Harper.

“I had my son at a young age, so progressing to university when I left school just wasn’t an option for me. I am so grateful to the Northern Trust and the Open University for giving me this opportunity,” she said.

After spending 12 years working in private domiciliary care, Gemma joined the Endoscopy departments at Mid-Ulster and Antrim Area hospitals in 2016 as a Health Care Assistant which reignited her passion for nursing.

“I was inspired by my colleagues and they helped me to see potential in myself by encouraging me to apply for the Open University degree

“I enjoy working within Endoscopy – it is a specialised and fast paced service and it is a pleasure to now work as a newly qualified nurse alongside the colleagues who supported me along the way.

“The help I received from the Student Support teams, tutors at the Open University and Northern Trust practice assessors and supervisors was invaluable to me, and they were always on hand whenever I had a query.

“Equally, my Practice Education Facilitator within the Mid Ulster Hospital supported my learning and helped me wherever they could. Having all my placements within the Northern Trust was great for work-life balance, and I found the diverse settings within Medical, Surgical, Community and Renal all offered invaluable training and new skills. Balancing study with a busy family life and work commitments was always a bit of a juggling act but this really helps with prioritising, thinking on your feet and organisation, all skills that will stand me well in my future career in nursing.”


Congratulating the three nurses on their success, Suzanne Pullins, Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “As a Trust we are committed to developing our workforce and supporting our staff to reach their full potential.

“These achievements reflects the strength of our partnership with the Open University, and it is very encouraging for us to see Shelley, Aiobhin and Gemma’s efforts recognized in this way by NIPEC. We wish them every success as their nursing careers get underway.”

Carly Thompson, the Northern Trust’s Lead Nurse for Education, said: “Shelley, Aiobhin and Gemma have all worked very hard and we are proud to have supported them throughout their studies.”


Mother and Baby

If you are pregnant, you can self refer directly for maternity care

As soon as you have had a positive pregnancy test, you can refer yourself directly for Maternity Care in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

We offer a Baby and U Programme which covers:

  • Antenatal care and checks
  • Booking appointment and subsequent appointments
  • Antenatal blood tests and screening
  • Getting Ready for Baby classes
  • Vaccinations in pregnancy
  • Your health in pregnancy
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Antenatal education

Find out more and book your maternity appointment




Belinda Simpson in a classroom holding a baby doll

Roots of Empathy teaches lifelong lessons to primary school pupils

An innovative educational programme which aims to promote sharing, caring and inclusion among primary school pupils is preparing for another busy year ahead.

Under the Roots of Empathy initiative, a parent and baby are brought into the classroom every month, allowing children to observe their close relationship and the infant’s milestones. They learn to identify and reflect on their own feelings, and those of others, which provides an important grounding in social and emotional awareness which is important for the future.

First introduced in 2011, the internationally-recognised programme has continued to grow in popularity and now 38 schools are actively involved across the Northern Trust area.

Kate McDermott, Programme Co-ordinator for the Northern Trust, said: “Roots of Empathy is designed to equip pupils with the skills they need to build healthy relationships and due to early intervention work, they are able to carry these skills into adulthood. We are delighted that a further 14 schools have joined the programme this year and we look forward to sharing these important lessons with more pupils than ever before.”

The success of Roots of Empathy centres on its families and instructors like Alberta Lamont who is retiring after leading the programme in Cookstown Primary School for the past nine years.

During this time, her dedication has ensured that all children in the participating year group had an opportunity to take part and enjoy the benefits of this kind of learning.

Belinda Simpson has been involved with the programme at Ballycraigy Primary School in Antrim since 2013 and she’s now celebrating 10 years as an instructor. She recently became a local mentor for Northern Ireland (one of only four), giving her additional responsibility for supporting new instructors.

Kate added: “On behalf of the Northern Trust we would like to thank Alberta and Belinda for their dedication to teaching local children important life lessons about expressing feelings, respect, inclusion, infant development and safety, and the power of a loving bond between parent and child.

“They have both went above and beyond for Roots of Empathy, helping to make it an important part of schools’ provision for their pupils. We hope Alberta enjoys her well-deserved retirement, and we look forward to continuing to work with Belinda in her role as a local mentor, which will be hugely important to our new instructors.”

Roots of Empathy is co-ordinated and led by the Northern Trust Health Improvement Service, and is funded by the Public Health Agency.

Group of physios in uniform.

Celebrating Allied Health excellence

In the Northern Health and Social Care Trust we have over 1000 registered Allied Health Professional (AHP) colleagues and 160 AHP support workers.

On Allied Health Professionals Day (October 14 2023) we want to celebrate their positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Our Allied Health Professionals and support workers deliver across dietetics, occupational therapy, orthoptics, orthotists, paramedic education, physiotheraphy, podiatry, radiography, and speech and language therapy.

Offering her thoughts ahead of AHPs’ Day, Jill Bradley, Assistant Director and AHP Governance Lead, said: “On Allied Health Professionals Day I want to say how proud I am proud to work with the fabulous AHP teams within the Northern Trust.

“Allied Health Professionals deliver the right skills at the right time, supporting people to rehabilitate and live well within their communities and homes.  Our Northern Trust AHPs demonstrate innovation and excellence in practice which is nationally and regionally recognised.  More importantly, feedback we receive from our service users via Care Opinion demonstrates the transformative impact AHPs make to the lives of many people in the Northern Trust area.  I am immensely proud of our AHP teams and the positive difference they make to the health and wellbeing of people in our communities.”

“I would encourage others to use this global awareness raising campaign to learn more about the skills of our AHPs and the role they play in enhancing health and social care at all life stages.”

Jill Bradley and AHPs' Day logo.

Care Opinion

Care Opinion allows members of the public to tell their stories about their health care experiences.

As part of Allied Health Professionals Day in the Northern Trust we want to share some of these experiences with you to help raise awareness about the excellent care provided by our AHPs.

Occupational Therapy

“I did not realise how much and how important the role is of the Occupational Therapists is, in helping me to prepare for my journey home.”

The OT sensory workshop was “excellent and informative with well presented information with lots of practical tips”.

“From the moment we met our OT she was kind, professional and attentive to (our child’s) needs. Our appointment was a positive experience and OT’s follow up with a sensory diet was prompt.”

“I was referred to the Condition Management Programme after battling PTSD due to health and personal reasons. I had the most wonderful OT called Kelly who was fantastic and made me feel at ease and that the feelings I had were all normal, (and) she would help me to cope with them. I was referred on to pain management and Occupational Therapy. I honestly highly recommend this programme for anyone who is battling with health issues or life in general.”


“My mum will always live with double vision now and subsequently for the past 6 weeks we have had multiple appointments. I would like to thank her Orthoptist in Magherafelt who took time to listen to mum’s concerns and recognised she didn’t fully understand the severity of her diagnosis. He talked to her in a way she understood and brought humour into the assessment.”


“My physio was very understanding. Helped a lot with balance issues and was extremely helpful.”

“I was very pleased to attend the physio / lymphoedema clinic at Ballymena. My physio was very professional and skilled in his work. He ordered me Comfiwave support stockings which help with the oedema. I feel that I had very beneficial appointment and I wanted to convey my thanks.”


“Podiatry staff have been outstanding in every way. The service they give is world beating. I would like you to know just how good they are, and have been to me, During the worst time of my life. They made a difference.”

Group of podiatrists in uniform.


“On the day all checks were performed, the scan itself took only minutes, and then I was shown the exit door. I consider this service second to none.”

Two radiographers with a patient at a scanning machine.


Speech and Language Therapy

My speech and language therapist  “helped my son grow in confidence with speech, play, interaction and attention. She really got to know my little boy and that meant a lot to me. I really appreciate all she has done for us and I know she has made a real impact on my son’s future. Thank you so much!

Paramedic Education

AHP Paramedic students learn in multiple clinical settings including AHP & Community Teams, Coronary Care, Emergency Departments and Operating Theatres.

The Northern Trust provides a rich and welcoming learning environment for our student paramedic colleagues.

A group of paramedic students with staff.








Autumn 2023 Northern Trust AHP Newsletter


Physiotherapist and patient pictured in a swimming pool.

Showcasing the benefits of Physiotherapy on World Physiotherapy Day

A Northern Trust patient has shared his positive experience of physiotherapy to mark World Physiotherapy Day on Friday 8th September.

Derek was referred by his consultant after fracturing his foot, and his overall health and wellbeing has been greatly enhanced by his treatment plan, which included regular hydrotherapy.

Derek explained: “I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 23 years, arthritis for 8 years and the lung condition COPD for 2 years which means I get short of breath during activity, and combined with arthritis it makes exercise difficult.

“Exercising in water makes life easier for me as the buoyancy means I can move with ease and enjoy exercising. I want to be able to help myself and feel fit for the future.

“I have gained better mobility and strength which in turn makes day to day activities easier to do. I would like to thank my Physiotherapist for this great experience and for introducing me to the benefits of exercising in water. “

Northern Trust Physiotherapist Sarah said working together with patients to achieve the best outcomes is hugely important: “I will listen to your story and we will agree a treatment plan to help you manage your arthritis. This plan will involve advice and reassurance on a range of management strategies that you are able to do.

“My aim is to help you to cope with everyday routines whether your arthritis is going through a flare up or not. Arthritis research shows that physical activity helps to reduce pain, strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility.

“I will help you to plan for the future by signposting you to services that support you to move forward and live well with arthritis such as Versus Arthritis. It is hugely satisfying when patients like Derek have the confidence to manage their condition, live better with arthritis and remain independent following physiotherapy input.”

This year, the main theme of World Physiotherapy Day is arthritis, with a focus on inflammatory arthritis.

In the Northern Trust, specialist Rheumatology Physiotherapists play an important part within our multidisciplinary team.

Andrew Barbour, Clinical Lead for Musculoskeletal and Rheumatology Services, said: “I would like to recognise the significant contribution the team has made in positively impacting the lives of patients with arthritis.  They have shown excellence in improving the physiotherapy service by developing a referral and review pathway through to rheumatology from their musculoskeletal colleagues for patients suspected of living with inflammatory arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis.”

Emma Cameron, Head of Physiotherapy Services within the Northern Trust added: “I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the role our Physiotherapists play in promoting lifestyle management of arthritic conditions including preventative work as well as more specific and individualised treatment packages.

“The assessment and rehabilitation skills of our Physiotherapists enable service users to live well, remain mobile and independent. These interventions take place every day from children’s services all the way through the ages.

“On World Physiotherapy Day I would like to thank our Physiotherapy teams for their dedication and commitment to helping patients manage the impact of their arthritis and supporting them for the future as well.”


A Support Worker and Adult Learning Disability Service pictured together in a kitchen.

Adult Learning Disability Recruitment Open Days

Are you interested in joining our Adult Learning Disability team?

We are currently recruiting for Band 3 Support Workers and Band 5 Daycare Workers in Antrim, Larne and Magherafelt, as well as locations across the Trust.

Come along to one of our upcoming Recruitment Open Days where you can meet with staff members and learn more about what’s involved across our Short Breaks, Day Services, Supported Living, and Day Opportunities.

You can also complete an application and informal interview on the day.

Thursday 7 September: Holiday Inn Express, Antrim, 4pm – 8pm.

Saturday 9 September: The Terrace Hotel, Magherafelt, 11am – 4pm.

Saturday 16 September: Larne Adult Centre (782 Ballymena Road, BT40 2AD) 11am – 4pm.
Please note change of venue for the Larne event.

If you would like further information, or to register your interest, please contact Susy Barry at Hollybank Short Break Unit on 02879633369 or email

Watch our short videos below to hear directly from some of our staff about their roles.