Category Archives: 2022

COVID-19 booster and MMR vaccinations

The COVID-19 booster vaccination programme offers more vulnerable members of our community the opportunity to top up their protection ahead of any potential waves of COVID-19 over the coming months.

This year’s spring booster will be offered to:

  • adults aged 75 years old or over;
  • residents in a care home for older adults;
  • individuals aged 6 months and over who are immunosuppressed.

For further information on the spring booster see

Trust Clinics

  • Wednesday 12 June – Antrim Area Hospital Canteen
  • Thursday 20 June – Causeway Hospital Canteen
  • Thursday 27 June – Antrim Area Hospital Canteen

Clinics run from 10.00am – 3.00pm

Anyone who is eligible for the spring booster, or anyone who needs an MMR catch-up vaccine, is welcome to attend.

Drop in or book an appointment in advance by going to


Joint Statement from the Chief Executives of Northern Ireland’s Health Trusts

Actions to reduce the risk to patients waiting in unacceptable circumstances in ambulances and Emergency Departments

As members of this community as well as health and social care service leaders, we are deeply distressed at the ongoing situation in our hospitals.

Although strenuous efforts are being made to alleviate the pressures, we have a serious capacity deficit which means too many people are waiting too long for care. Much of the impact of this is falling on frail and ill older people and on the staff caring for them.

Pressures on services are expected to intensify further after Christmas and into the early months of 2023.

The case for long-term investment and reform to effectively build capacity has been well made. Right now, however, we have to use whatever levers are available to us to reduce delays and prioritise patient safety.

HSC Trusts have been working intensively with Departmental colleagues on our ongoing response. It has been agreed that the following initiatives will be introduced across the system:

* Patients will leave hospital no later than 48 hours after confirmation they are medically fit for discharge and where a suitable  placement which can meet their needs is available. There will be no cost to the patient or their family for this alternative interim placement  and it will not impact on their place on any waiting list for their longer term option. Trusts and Care Homes will work closely together to make best use of any and all available capacity. This will include new shared arrangements for pre-admission assessment for care homes seven days a week.

* A maximum limit of three hours for ambulance handover will apply at all EDs. There is agreement in principle to further reduce this limit over the coming months, subject to review. In the interim, for ambulances waiting up to three hours for handover, it is agreed to maintain the focus on immediate release of ambulance crews to respond to immediately life threatening Category 1 calls.

* Maximum use will be made of available space in wards and throughout hospitals, to improve patient flow out of overcrowded Emergency Departments. This will also include, where appropriate, use of chairs rather than beds for patients medically fit to leave hospitals.

These are not steps that we ever wanted or indeed imagined having to introduce. They are not designed as a long-term solution, but as actions to reduce the risk to patients waiting in unacceptable circumstances in ambulances and EDs.

What we absolutely require is a long-term funding settlement and a health and care system which properly reflects demographic trends and is capable of meeting rising levels of demand.

In the meantime, we cannot passively accept the status quo, with all that it means for patient care and safety.




Starting a conversation about loneliness

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust recently launched its ‘Starting a Conversation about Loneliness’ resource. This useful resource comprises of Prompt Cards and a Guide and aims to support Trust staff help identify loneliness with service users and carers and enable them to discuss ways to address it.

Even before Covid-19, where feelings of loneliness more than doubled, loneliness was fast becoming recognised as a growing public health concern.

People of all ages can experience loneliness and most of us will have felt lonely at some time in our lives.  Statistics within a 2020 report by the Campaign to End Loneliness and the Action Group on Loneliness Policy in Northern Ireland indicate that 1 in 3 people in Northern Ireland are ‘more often lonely’ while 1 in 20 people are chronically lonely.

Chronic or persistent loneliness can be as damaging to our physical and mental health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, obesity, heart disease and other health conditions including an increased risk of anxiety and depression. The effects of loneliness can also impact the numbers of people contacting their GP, which can in turn place pressure on public services.

Dr Petra Corr, Director of Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community Wellbeing, Northern Trust said, “I am delighted to launch this new loneliness resource. Within the Northern Trust we are committed to finding ways to support all those who may be feeling lonely or who are at risk of loneliness.  This new resource will be a valuable tool to help staff talk about loneliness with service users and carers and help them find ways to address it”.

Yvonne Carson Lead for Loneliness Northern Trust commented “Feeling lonely is a normal human emotion and whilst loneliness is not a pleasant experience this resource will help break the stigma of loneliness by giving staff the the confidence to talk about it more openly and discuss ways to improve social connections”.

Janine Gordon, Mental Capacity Act Governance Lead added, “We know the links between loneliness and poor mental and physical health are well established and without support mechanisms to cope, loneliness can become problematic. We involved staff from the onset and we have received a lot of support and positive feedback from staff who very much welcome this exciting new loneliness resource”.

Twenty Northern Trust Loneliness Champions were also recognised at the event and they were presented with a Certificate of Recognition, Loneliness Champion badge and pack by Dr Petra Corr, Director of Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community Wellbeing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the impact of Allied Health Professionals on the lives of people in the Northern Trust area

Blog by Jill Bradley

Assistant Director, Allied Health Professions (AHPs), Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Let’s celebrate International AHPs Day! 

Friday 14 October is Allied Health Professions Day –  a unique opportunity to celebrate the skills of Allied Health Professionals who support the health and wellbeing of people living in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area, from Newtownabbey to Ballycastle, Coleraine to Cookstown and everywhere in-between.

Allied Health Professionals work as part of multidisciplinary teams and with local partners; councils, schools, care homes, hospitals, voluntary agencies and many more to tackle health inequalities.

In the Northern Trust;

  • Dietitians are addressing health inequalities of communities in Ballymena by running healthy eating courses and practical cooking sessions promoting cooking from scratch, healthy changes to diet and a reduction in take away foods Slow Cooking For Communities.
  • Occupational Therapists in partnership with Ulster University are leading innovation in the treatment of upper limb impairments following stroke.
  • Orthoptist clinics are supporting specialist assessment of visual problems, eye movement disorders, squints and double vision.
  • Paramedic students are welcomed by AHPs and other professions in various settings across the Trust to complete practice based learning.
  • First Contact Physiotherapists are working in local GP Practices to help people manage pain, disability and injury.
  • Podiatry clinics are delivered locally in a large number of towns to meet the needs of local people including those with diabetes.
  • Radiographers are providing diagnostic services and supporting flow through emergency departments.
  • Speech and Language Therapists are working in partnership with nurses, dietitians and other professionals to develop and implement Food and Drink Safety Pause in care settings before meal times, to promote awareness of people at risk from eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.  This work has been up-scaled regionally.

These initiatives demonstrate the impact AHPs have on the health and wellbeing of people in our local area.  AHPs help people to manage complex health conditions, support return to school or work and live independently at home. They are leaders in public health and take a population level approach to address the care needs of people living in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

So today, a big shout out to celebrate AHP Support Workers, Dietitians, Occupational Therapists, Orthoptists, Podiatrists, Physiotherapists, Radiographers, Speech and Language Therapists and Paramedics who work across the area.

Happy AHPs Day!

#AHPsDay  #WeAHPs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could you offer a child a brighter future?

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

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

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

Butterfly Remembrance walls at Antrim and Causeway Hospitals

During Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 Oct), we are hosting Butterfly Remembrance walls at Antrim and Causeway Hospitals, where you can come along and place a butterfly to remember your baby or child.

The wall at Antrim Area Hospital (outside the old emergency department) will open on Monday 10 October (from 11am-12 noon) and Thursday 13 October (from 3-4pm and 6-7pm).

The Butterfly Remembrance Wall at Causeway Hospital (outside the main entrance) will open on Monday 10 October (from 3-4pm), Tuesday 11 October (11am-12noon) and Wednesday 12 October  (7-8pm).

Rathmena House staff with Jubie John, NHSCT

Falls Pathway benefits nursing and residential care home residents

A new Wellness Pathway for people living in nursing and residential care homes has shown significant benefits in the area of resident falls.

Tested as part of the regional Enhancing Clinical Care Framework (ECCF) project, the Pathway has provided the tools and resources to enable care home staff to support residents who are at high risk of falls, managing their care within homes.

Rathmena House in Ballyclare is one of a number of care homes in Northern Ireland which has tested the Pathway.  This work is being led by the Department of Health and is supported by the Northern Trust’s Reach Team (Responsive Education, Support and Anticipatory Care to Care Homes), in collaboration with staff within the home.

After commencement of the Falls Pathway, Rathmena House has had no resident falls in the months of July and August 2022.  There has been an increase in staff awareness and a more holistic approach to the care of residents with the potential to fall.  The Pathway has also resulted in timely assessment and intervention by General Practitioners, multidisciplinary team and Allied Health Professionals and better rehabilitation opportunities for residents.  In addition, Reminiscence Interactive Therapy and Activities are provided to help provide therapeutic engagement and meaningful activity for residents.

The Testing phase is now complete however due to the benefits of the Falls Pathway outcomes the care home continues to use the Falls Pathway tools and resources.

Speaking about its success, Elizabeth Graham, Assistant Director of Nursing with the Northern Trust said:

“The Falls Pathway is just one of many resources currently being tested across a range of care home settings in NI as part of the regional Department of Health plan to coproduce a new framework for enhancing clinical care for residents in care homes, working in partnership with the Independent Sector.

“The aim of the Enhancing Clinical Care Framework (ECCF) project is to ensure that people who live in care homes are supported to lead the best life possible and that their right to access equitable healthcare provision is upheld.”

Neonatal Staff celebrating the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Award

Antrim Neonatal Unit receives nationally recognised mark of quality care

Antrim Area Hospital Neonatal Unit has become the first neonatal unit in Northern Ireland to receive full Baby Friendly accreditation by UNICEF.

The Team at the unit has worked towards Baby Friendly accreditation since 2017.  Following funding by the Public Health Agency for breastfeeding lead roles in neonatal units, they gained the knowledge and skills to implement the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Neonatal specific standards.

The Team implemented simple but effective measures including:

  • comfortable recliner chairs for use by breastfeeding mothers
  • Breast pumps for each cot space
  • More privacy screens to encourage mothers to pump beside the cot
  • Meal vouchers for parents to have a hot meal each day
  • Small fridges in each nursery for mothers to manage their own breastmilk supply
  • Car parking tickets to enable free car parking on the Antrim Hospital site
  • A hydration station for parents and staff to drink water/juice throughout the day
  • Coat hangers for parents to feel at home and have somewhere to hang their belongings
  • A baby library to encourage parents to take a book and read to their baby
  • Promotion of breastmilk while supporting all choices/methods of feeding

The Neonatal Unit also offered access to both parents and grandparents, however temporary changes were necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting families to breastfeed and increasing the number of babies who are breastfed offers the best possible start in life.  This improves infant health and provides health benefits for mothers.  Neonatal staff involve parents as true partners in care; they encourage relationship building, support breast milk use and the transition to breastfeeding.

Ruth McKinstry, Breastfeeding Lead Nurse, Neonatal Unit, Antrim Area Hospital, said,

“We are absolutely delighted to receive the Baby Friendly Accreditation.

“This work has helped both staff and parents to focus on family-centred care, ensuring families stay together at a most vulnerable time, surrounded by a supportive and welcoming environment and team.

“Breastmilk provides the unique nourishment required to meet babies nutritional needs, it helps fight infection, stimulates gut growth, aids digestion and research has also shown it can have an analgesic effect which is important for preterm and sick babies.”

Yvonne Palmer’s baby was born at just over 31 weeks.  She said,

“I decided to breastfeed because it was the one thing I could do while the nurses and doctors helped with the other care.

“No one else can make the same tailor-made milk as my body can, which helps to build and grow my baby.”

The Northern Trust Maternity Service was accredited as a Gold Baby Friendly Service in May 2018. This good work has continued with the Neonatal Unit now achieving the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Neonatal specific standards.

Additional Information

  • There is extensive evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health and cuts costs.  In infant health, breastfeeding protects children from a vast range of illnesses, including infection, diabetes, asthma, heart disease and obesity, as well as cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).  There are also maternal health benefits.  Breastfeeding protects mothers from breast and ovarian cancers and heart disease.  It also supports the mother-baby relationship and the mental health of both baby and mother. (UNICEF)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organisation for babies until six months’ old and thereafter with other foods for two years and beyond.
  • In the UK, many mothers stop breastfeeding before they want to. The Baby Friendly Initiative responds to particular barriers they face by supporting health professionals to provide sensitive and effective care so that mothers can make an informed choice about feeding, get breastfeeding off to a good start and overcome any challenges.
  • More information about Baby Friendly Standards for Neonatal Units:
  • Baby Friendly Accreditation statistics and awards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Phone First’ text relay number is 18001 0300 123 1 123 and it’s also available through Sign Video.

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

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