Category Archives: Years

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.





Northern Trust Logo With Hospital Background

Three Non-Executive Directors appointed to the Northern Trust

The Department of Health has announced the appointment of three Health and Social Care Trust Non-Executive Directors to the Northern Trust.

New appointees to the Trust are Carol Diffin and Professor Terri Scott as Non-Executive (Lay) Directors. Their appointments commenced on 18 December 2023 and will end on a date not later than 17 December 2027. Kathy Mackenzie has been appointed as a Non-Executive (Finance) Director from 1 February 2024 to a date not later than 31 January 2028.

Carol Diffin has 39 years’ experience working in the statutory Health and Social Care sector. Carol qualified as a social worker in 1984 and has worked primarily in statutory Children’s Services across Belfast HSC Trust, Southern HSC Trust and in the Northen Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency. Throughout her career Carol has held several senior management positions, including Director of Children’s Community Services/Executive Director of Social Work in the Belfast HSC Trust from September 2018 until September 2022. Carol is currently an Associate Consultant with the HSC Leadership Centre and an Associate with Clinical Leaderships Solutions.

Professor Terri Scott has held senior leadership appointments at Ulster University, Northern Regional College, Institute of Technology, Sligo, Dublin City University and Invest Northern Ireland. Terri retired from Ulster University in 2022, where she led the portfolio for Academic Operations. Prior to this, Terri was CEO & Principal of Northern Regional College for seven years. Throughout Terri’s career she has led complex change and transformation programmes and also been a Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) overseeing major capital programmes.  Terri is an experienced Non-Executive-Director and has formerly held public appointments to the Boards of OF7QUAL (the UK qualifications regulator), Intertrade Ireland, Industrial Development Agency, and Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation. Terri has also served on the Board of Grangegorman Development Authority (Dublin) since 2018 and was reappointed in 2022.

Kathy Mackenzie worked in the education system for a number of years after receiving an MA from Dundee University.  Returning to university and obtaining a Post-Graduate Diploma in Accounting saw Kathy change direction and set up her own bookkeeping business working with small businesses in the Causeway area and specialising in Forensic accounting and Payroll services.  Until her recent retirement, Kathy worked for 29 years on the voluntary Board of Management of Triangle Housing Association which provides homes and care for people in need throughout Northern Ireland.  Whilst with Triangle Kathy chaired the Board on two occasions for a total of 5 years and at various times throughout her tenure was Chair of Finance, Housing and Development, Audit and Risk, and Remuneration Committees.

HSC Trust Non-Executive Director positions require a time commitment of one day per week and attract a remuneration of £8,883 per annum.

These appointments are made in accordance with the Code of Practice issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland.

Northern Trust logo and loud speaker icon

Have your say

Help us shape our future plans

Our Corporate Plan will set out what we want to achieve for those who use our services, our communities and our staff.  Despite the challenges currently facing our health and social care system we are determined to focus on improving our services, maintaining quality and safety and building on the great work that our staff do every day.

We would like you to join us at an engagement event to help us shape our future plans. We are keen to hear your views as we set out and agree our priorities within our corporate plan over the next three years.

The engagement event will take place on Friday 8 March at 2.30pm and should last around two hours. This event will be held in the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena.

If you are interested in attending please register your interest by contacting by Tuesday 5 March and we will send you further details and register you for the event.

We aim to provide an inclusive, accessible environment that enables all individuals to engage fully. If you have any questions about accessibility, or would like to request accessibility support or an adjustment (for example: reserved front row seat, large print, communication support, advance copy of slides to be projected, wheelchair access) then please let us know.


Northern Health and Social Care Trust LogoPersonal and People Involvement Logo

Smoke free logo with hospital graphic

Northern Trust urges public to follow smoke free rules

The Northern Trust is appealing to members of the public to comply with its smoke free policy at its hospital sites.

Hospitals across Northern Ireland became smoke free in 2016, but smokers continue to light up within the hospital grounds, often outside main entrances.

Northern Trust Executive Medical Director Dr Dave Watkins said: “We want to remind members of the public, as well as our own staff, that we operate a smoke free policy across all our sites. This means that smoking or vaping is not permitted. We want everyone visiting our hospitals and community buildings to enjoy a smoke free environment.

“We recognise that smoking is a difficult habit to break and we want to support anyone interested in quitting; but we do not want people who are attending hospital, some of whom are very sick and clinically vulnerable, to have to walk through clouds of smoke.

“We would encourage people to show consideration to others and also to seek help to quit the habit. We all know the dangers of smoking; the risks to our health are well documented, and there is plenty of support available locally to help people stop smoking. We also offer support to staff to help them kick the habit.”

A recent report published by the NI Audit Office found that around 15% of deaths (2,200) in Northern Ireland can be attributed to smoking each year, and around 35,000 admissions to hospital are smoking-related. In addition, a person smoking 20 cigarettes a day pays out over £4,600 each year on their habit.

Dr Watkins added: “Apart from the obvious risk to health, it is really unpleasant for visitors to be greeted by dozens of discarded cigarette butts outside hospital entrances. We would also remind people that the bus shelter located on our Antrim site should not be used as a smoking shelter as this is in breach of the smoke-free legislation.”

Many local pharmacies offer help and support to quit smoking. You can find your nearest pharmacy on the Stop Smoking NI website along with information and resources for those wanting to stop smoking.


Speakers who took part in the conference standing together, Maura Dargan, Alison Howard, Joanna Brown, Robin Swann, Prof Sir Michael McBride, Prof Sarah Hull, Jennifer Welsh, Dr Alison Livingstone, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher and Tracy Magill.

Conference marks 10 years of Northern Ireland’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Northern Ireland’s only dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre has marked its 10th anniversary with a special conference.

The Rowan, located at Antrim Area Hospital, has helped nearly 900 people each year since its doors first opened in June 2013.

Coinciding with Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the event provided an opportunity to reflect on progress over the last 10 years and discuss what further developments and legislative provisions are required to meet the needs of sexual violence victims.

With over 100 delegates from a wide range of disciplines in attendance, the conference opened with an address from Health Minister Robin Swann, who commented on the Centre’s contribution to tackling sexual violence: “I want to pay tribute to the entire team at the Rowan for the support and care that they have provided over the last 10 years.

“While we have made considerable progress over the past decade, we know there is more to do. The current Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy has been in place for the last eight years and we are now working on its successor. The new strategy is heavily influenced by what those with lived experience have told us.

“The vision is that Northern Ireland becomes a place where domestic and sexual abuse are not tolerated. It will require partnership and collaboration across departments and across sectors, and I recognise the enormity of the challenges we face, but I am convinced that it is achievable.”

Alongside the Health Minister, the event also featured a range of keynote speakers including Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Lady Chief Justice, The Right Honourable Dame Siobhan Keegan, Victims Commissioner Designate, Geraldine Hanna, former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir John Gillen, and Dr Eithne Dowds from Queen’s University, Belfast.

Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director at The Rowan, said: “We are delighted to mark The Rowan’s 10 years of service to victims of sexual violence in Northern Ireland, while having the opportunity to focus on future developments.

“Our specially trained team of doctors and nurses remain committed to providing a responsive, compassionate and high quality service to all victims of sexual violence.”

Partnership working

Reflecting on The Rowan’s successful partnership with the PSNI, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher, said: “Sexual violence and abuse can happen to anyone – it doesn’t matter what age, gender, race or sexuality. The impact these crimes can have is often extreme and can have a ricochet effect throughout our communities.

“Since The Rowan first opened its doors to survivors ten years ago, we have supported them as key partners. The service it offers is invaluable and the forensic evidence they help us gather in such a sensitive and respectful way has helped us achieve justice for so many.

“The experience of being a survivor of a sexual crime is a very difficult one. However, the Rowan Centre has, and will, continue to provide a complete and co-ordinated package of care to promote recovery, wellbeing and greatly enhance our robust investigative process.”

Services at The Rowan are provided by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses who are committed to providing a trauma-informed approach to a victim-led service.

They offer acute and non-acute forensic medical examinations, joint paediatric examinations, sexual health screening, treatment and advice, to men, children and young people who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, including historic cases.

You do not need to make a report to police, but you will receive specific support if you decide to do this at a later date.

The Rowan can be contacted directly 24/7, 365 days a year by ringing 0800 389 4424 or go to for further information.

Pictured above are Maura Dargan, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Director, Alison Howard, Lead Nurse at The Rowan, Joanna Brown, Head of Service, Robin Swann,Health Minister, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director at The Rowan, Jennifer Welsh, Northern Trust Chief Executive, Dr Alison Livingstone, Paediatrics Clinical Lead at The Rowan, Detective Chief Superintendent Lindsay Fisher and Tracy Magill, Assistant Director, Northern Trust Children and Young People Division Assistant Director.



Northern Trust MMR vaccine catch-up clinics

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is undertaking a Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccination catch-up campaign aimed at ensuring all children and young people are fully protected.

The vaccinations are targeted at those aged from 6 – 25 who have not yet received both doses of the MMR vaccine.

With measles cases on the rise, the campaign aims to help prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

If you, or your child, have not yet received both doses, you will receive a letter inviting you to attend a vaccination clinic.

Children aged between 12 months – 5 years can get the vaccine through their GP practice.

Encouraging all those who require a vaccination to come forward, Northern Trust Lead Nurse for Public Health Nursing Geraldine Doherty said: “It is important for people to understand that measles is a highly infectious viral illness which can lead to serious complications.

“This catch-up campaign aims to ensure that we have fully vaccinated as many of our children and young people as possible, protecting them and the wider community from serious illnesses which are wholly preventable.

“We are aware of a growing number of measles cases across the UK and Europe, so I would urge all parents, carers and young people to recognise the importance of supporting this campaign by coming forward for vaccination if it is required.”

Clinics for children aged 6 – 15

All children aged from 6 – 15 who live in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area are invited to attend their preferred clinic from the list below.

These clinics will run from 12noon – 3pm, with walk-in appointments available or you can book an appointment.

Saturday 24 February, Valley Leisure Centre, Church Road, Newtownabbey.

Saturday 2 March, Robinson Hospital, The Tweed Room, Newal Road, Ballymoney.

Saturday 9 March, Mid Ulster Hospital, Children’s Ward.

For those aged 16 – 25, the MMR vaccination will be offered at the following clinics:

Tuesday 27 February, Mid-Ulster Hospital vaccination office, 10am – 3pm.

Wednesday 28 February, Whiteabbey Hospital boardroom, 10am – 3pm.

Walk-in appointments will be available or you can book an appointment.


Group of people standing together outside - left to right Joanna Brown, Head of Service, Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director, Tanya Copeland, Trainee Forensic Nurse, Mark McEwan, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Sabrina Wittman, GREVIO Secretariat, Maria-Andriani Kostopoulou, GREVIO President, PSNI Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher, Tracy Magill, Northern Trust Assistant Director Children and Young People’s, Alison Howard, Lead Nurse, and Mary McGarry, Trainee Forensic Nurse.

European delegation visits The Rowan

An eminent European delegation has visited The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Antrim Area Hospital to learn more about the support it provides to all those who have experienced sexual violence and abuse.

The group included the President of GREVIO (Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence), Maria-Andriani Kostopoulou, and Secretariat, Sabrina Wittman. The independent expert body is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

The visit also involved representatives from the Department of Communities Gender Policy Branch, the Criminal Inspectorate from the Department of Justice, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan and members of the PSNI’s Public Protection team.

Joanna Brown, Head of Service at The Rowan commented: “It is a real honour for us to meet with leaders from GREVIO and showcase our services as Northern Ireland’s regional specialist centre for victims of sexual violence at this level, including our provision of forensic medical examinations and the success of our multi-agency approach.

“As we prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of The Rowan, this was a fantastic opportunity to highlight the vital role of the facility, and how we are committed to promoting and advocating for victim centred policy in order to provide the strategic framework that is required to ensure our services are truly responsive to the needs of those who seek our help.”

While the visit by the GREVIO delegation had a particular focus on women, The Rowan also provides services and support to men, children and young people who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, including historic cases.

Joanna added: “It is important that people are aware of the services we offer, and that you can contact us directly, or through the PSNI. Adults can come to us without making a report to the Police or we can support you if, and when, you decide to go down this route. If you need us, please reach out. We operate 365 days a year and provide a 24/7 service to all victims of sexual crime.”

You can contact The Rowan’s 24-hour Helpline by ringing 0800 389 4424 or visit for more information.

The Rowan is jointly funded by the Department of Health and Department of Justice.

Pictured above are Joanna Brown, Head of Service, Professor Sarah Hull, Clinical Director, Tanya Copeland, Trainee Forensic Nurse, Mark McEwan, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Sabrina Wittman, GREVIO Secretariat, Maria-Andriani Kostopoulou, GREVIO President,  PSNI Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher, Tracy Magill, Northern Trust Assistant Director Children and Young People Division, Alison Howard, Lead Nurse, and Mary McGarry, Trainee Forensic Nurse.

Causeway Hospital with work underway on a £1.2m solar roof installation. Solar panels visible on the roof and scaffolding in place.

Major renewable energy project underway at Causeway Hospital

A £1.2m solar roof installation is underway at Causeway Hospital which, once complete, will offset more than 200,000 kgs of carbon emissions by generating around 1 million kWh of electricity each year.

The project is the largest solar PV (photovoltaic) roof installation on any Health and Social Care building in Northern Ireland, and one of the largest rooftop installations on the island of Ireland.

Work on the 1.2 MWp (megawatt peak) system is due to be completed by the spring.

Chris Smyth, Head of Specialist Services with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “We are really delighted that this exciting project to produce clean, renewable energy is underway. Once complete, the reduction in carbon emissions would equate to planting around 8,800 trees for every year it is operating, which is significant.

“It will not only help us to reduce running costs, but importantly will help us reduce our carbon footprint through generating our own electricity to run the hospital. Renewable energy in health and social care is an important aspect of how we create a more sustainable and cost-efficient system for generations to come.

“This project has been made possible by funding from the Department for the Economy and demonstrates the Trust’s commitment to investing in Causeway Hospital so it can continue to serve the local population for many years to come.

“Renewable energy projects such as this help to reduce our carbon emissions and move us toward our long-term goal of delivering a ‘net zero’ health and social care service for the region.”

The Trust’s Energy Team has been delivering a range of sustainability projects, from installing energy-saving LED lighting to replacing inefficient boilers across its estate.

As well as the solar PV installation at Causeway Hospital, smaller-scale solar PV projects have been completed at Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle and at the Route Complex in Ballymoney. Planning is also underway for a solar PV installation and replacement window scheme at the Mid Ulster Hospital, as part of the Trust’s Delivering Value Programme.

Northern HSC Trust Director of Infrastructure Paddy Graffin said: “Our health and social care system as a whole is facing increasing financial pressures and so it is vital that we look across our organisation to ensure we are getting the very best value and identifying areas where we can make efficiencies across our estates.

“We have set up a Delivering Value Programme Board to oversee this work which covers three main areas: productivity, cost control, and sustainability. Investing in renewable energy will help us meet our cost control targets on energy, as well as having benefits for our local environment and communities.”

The Department for the Economy has provided the Northern Trust with total funding of £1.8million towards its renewable energy projects.

Ian Snowden, Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy, said: “The Department for the Economy is delighted to support the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in its ongoing energy efficiency and decarbonisation journey as part of our wider efforts to help Northern Ireland achieve its ambitious Net Zero targets.

“As part of our delivery of the Energy Management Strategy for central government, the Department was pleased to be able to provide funding for the new solar PV installation at the Causeway Hospital. This fantastic project shows how government is continuing to lead on the deployment of renewable energy solutions as part of Northern Ireland’s journey to Net Zero.”


Flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme

Flu Vaccine

The current influenza vaccination programme has been extended to include everyone aged 50 to 64 years old and all health and social care workers.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone in eligible groups to come forward for vaccination to maximise their protection against the virus, including all health and social care workers.

People who should get the vaccine

Some people are at greater risk from the effects of flu and should get the vaccine when offered it. There’s an increased risk if you:

  •  are pregnant
  • are aged 50 and over on 31 March 2024, even if you feel fit and healthy
  • live in a residential or nursing home
  • have an illness or underlying health condition (including children from six months of age)

You are also at increased risk of flu if you are at higher risk of infection with avian influenza related to your work or similar exposures, such as bird culling or cleaning at confirmed avian influenza outbreak premises or handling live unwell birds.

Workers employed at, or regularly visiting, statutorily-registered poultry units and poultry processing units, may also be at risk if they have direct exposure to bird faeces or litter such as through initial egg sorting or cleaning of premises.

The annual flu vaccination programme also includes:

  • all preschool children aged two year to four years old on 1 September
  • children at primary school and secondary school (up to and including Year 12)
  • carers – if you care for another person, you should ask your GP if you should be vaccinated so you can continue caring for them
  • all health and social care (HSC) workers
  • staff in independent care homes, hospices and domiciliary care providers
  • close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

You can receive your vaccine now from either a Trust clinic, participating community pharmacy, or your GP.

Trust Clinics

Tuesday 27 February, Mid-Ulster Hospital vaccination office, 10am – 3pm.

Wednesday 28 February, Whiteabbey Hospital boardroom, 10am – 3pm.

Drop in at a time that suits you or book an appointment.

COVID-19 booster vaccine

You will be offered the COVID-19 booster vaccine if you are:

  • a resident or staff member in a care home
  • aged 65 years and over
  • aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • a frontline health and social care worker
  • aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • a carer, aged 16 to 64 years
  • pregnant

Top tips

Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.

When sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing – catch it, by using a tissue; bin it, by throwing the tissue in the bin; and kill it, by washing your hands afterwards to kill the germs.

If you have symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people until your symptoms have resolved fully.

If eligible, receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and others from getting the virus. If you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider and make an informed decision.

Find out further information at




Pregnant woman with child on her knee

Vaccines during pregnancy

The Public Health Agency is reminding pregnant women to get the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine between 16 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy. The majority of children who are reported as having whooping cough are infants under six months of age so are too young to be protected by their routine childhood immunisations which are given at two, three, and four months of age. They can however be protected by their mother receiving the vaccination during pregnancy.

For further information on the vaccinations offered in pregnancy, please check