Category Archives: 2024

Three staff sit around a picnic table

Collective effort transforms outdoor space at Fern House

An outdoor space at Fern House in the grounds of Antrim Area Hospital has been transformed thanks to the collective efforts of staff from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Work got underway during the winter when the team embarked on their own version of ‘Grow-vember’, adding shrubs and planting bulbs in the courtyard.

Estates colleagues were on hand to carry out a clean-up and they expertly restored a number of benches before adding them to the area. This month, the final touches were put in place with a special plaque added to one of them in memory of Jackie Millar, a much-loved colleague who worked as a navigator in Laurel House.

Commenting on the initiative, Claire Stewart, the Northern Trust’s Macmillan Personalised Care Facilitator Cancer Services said: “This has been a real team effort and we are delighted with how it has turned out. As we look towards the summer time, and hopefully continued better weather, this outdoor space will make a real difference to our staff, who can enjoy it on their breaks.

“Our Estates team did a fantastic job cleaning up the space and giving a new lease of life to our old benches. It’s even more special that one of them has been dedicated to Jackie, remembering one of her favourite lines ‘it’s time for a fresh air break’, which always brought a smile to everyone’s face.

“We’re also very grateful to Macmillan who supported the project by funding picnic tables which are another welcome addition and local recycling company New Leaf Compost for their donations of compost.”

Three people standing outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Representatives of The Rowan attend Buckingham Palace reception

Representatives of The Rowan travelled to Buckingham Palace this month for a special reception hosted by The Queen.

The event was organised to recognise the collective work of individuals and organisations who support survivors of sexual violence and assault, and to celebrate the relaunch of The Washbag Project. First initiated by Her Majesty in 2013, it provides people with a wash bag filled with practical items when they attend Sexual Assault Referral Centres.

The Northern Trust’s Joanna Brown, Head of Service at The Rowan, said: “It was a real honour for us to be invited to Buckingham Palace in recognition of the work we do to support survivors of sexual violence.

“The Washbag Project, which runs in partnership with InKind Direct and Boots, makes a real difference to victims of sexual assault during their time of crisis, and is a demonstrable symbol that their health and wellbeing really matters to others.

“All of us at The Rowan are very pleased to be a part of the project, and being at Buckingham Palace was a great reminder about the importance of the work we do.”

During the event, Her Majesty read a letter from a survivor who had appreciated ‘the kindness of strangers at a very dark time’ when given a washbag, and she spoke to all of those in the room who have helped survivors in so many different  ways, including volunteering, donations and professional support.

The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre, located in Antrim, is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to children, young people, women and men who have been sexually assaulted or raped, whether this happened in the past or more recently.

If you need support or advice please contact 0800 389 4424.


Her Majesty The Queen speaks with people during the reception including Joanna Brown from The Rowan.

Female doctor in scrubs

Planned industrial action by junior doctors

We are expecting significant disruption to our services as a result of the planned industrial action by junior doctors from 7am on Wednesday 22 May – 7am on Friday 24 May 2024.

Our focus will be on maintaining safe services for acutely unwell patients within our inpatient facilities and protecting urgent and emergency care.

Our message to patients and service users is that they should attend all scheduled appointments unless contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

We would also encourage people to use our Phone First service, where appropriate, before travelling to our Emergency Departments.

The Phone First triage service is available Monday – Friday, 8am-6pm, on 0300 123 1 123. In an emergency, always call 999.

Thank you for your continued support.

Disruption due to industrial action includes:

  • Community outpatient appointments rescheduled: 15
  • Hospital outpatient appointments rescheduled: 349
  • Endoscopy procedures rescheduled: 26
  • Surgical procedures rescheduled: 23

Department of Health Statement on industrial action

Three ladies standing in front of a table. There are books on display on the table and pop-up banners in the background

Read all about it! Death Positive Library now open in Cookstown

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is working with Compassionate Communities NI and Libraries NI to get more people talking and reading about death.

As part of their collaboration a new Death Positive Library has opened in Cookstown, which will give people access to a range of books on dying, death and bereavement, and enable readers to explore ideas and thoughts from a range of different perspectives.

The initiative aims to remove barriers around talking about advanced illness, caregiving, death and bereavement, with books available for different age groups and needs, including children and easy read formats.

Studies indicate that more than 70% of us avoid talking about end of life. We live in a death phobic society and yet we will face our own death one day. We will be impacted by death and dying multiple times perhaps as carers, as people living with bereavement and ultimately when we die. Our reluctance to talk about the ‘D’ word, can leave those who are impacted by advanced illness feeling socially isolated and lonely.

Fiona Gilmour, Macmillan Palliative Care Service Improvement Lead, said: “This new addition to Cookstown Library marks the sixth Death Positive Library in Northern Ireland. Book loans from existing libraries confirm we want to know more about end of life. The message is clear, death is no surprise – so let’s start reading and talking about it – and get on living.”

“It is important that we support people living with palliative conditions and those experiencing grief, and encourage a planned approach to all aspects of preparing for and living with death.  The Compassionate Communities NI website hosts a range of helpful resources and our new Death Positive Library initiative with Libraries NI allows for greater access to helpful information that people need.

Libraries NI Service Development Manager Kirsty McClelland said: “Libraries serve as vital community hubs, offering welcoming spaces where individuals can access resources on a number of important matters.

“We hope that this curated collection of books will assist readers in arming themselves with information relating to death and dying, and encourage people to foster greater openness and understanding within our community.

“We extend our gratitude to Northern Trust for their generous donation and to all who joined us for the launch event. Whether borrowing one of the books from Cookstown Library or simply spending time with a book in the branch, we invite everyone to participate in this valuable free resource.”

Find out more from Libraries NI

Access resources from Compassionate Communities NI

Four ladies standing in front of a table. There are books on display on the table and pop-up banners in the background
Pictured at the launch of the Death Positive Library are Bernie McCann, Fiona Gilmour, Leah Glass and Sharon Williams.


A group of people sitting on chairs in a room with pop-up banners at the back
Pictured at the launch of the Death Positive Library in Cookstown
















Three ladies standing in front of a table. There are books on display on the table and pop-up banners in the background
Meta Graham, Deputy Chair of Mid-Ulster Council, pictured at the launch of the Death Positive Library in Cookstown with Bernie McCann and library staff.
A young baby looks up at the camera while sitting in a high chair with food on his tray and face

Would you like to learn more about weaning?

Introducing solids can be a really exciting time for you and your baby, but with so much advice out there, it can be hard to know what is best.

To help you, the Public Health Dietitians Group are promoting Weaning Week which runs from May 13 – 19.

Throughout the week, they will be sharing trustworthy, up-to-date and practical advice, and providing weaning recipe books, top tips flyers, staff training and more.

If you are about to embark on your little one’s ‘foodie journey’ or want to know the best advice to give to those introducing solids, there are lots of resources to help.

Check out the short ‘Weaning your baby’ videos on the Public Health Dietitians YouTube channel.

These will give you lots of helpful top tips for getting started.

Or for more in-depth information look at the ‘introducing solids’ webinar.

The ‘Weaning made easy’ booklet from the Public Health Agency is a great step-by-step guide.

Three pupils wearing school uniform (a boy and two girls) hold up their card designs

HeART of Palliative Care winning designs unveiled

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has unveiled the winning designs in its ‘HeART of Palliative Care’ bereavement card competition.

The initiative was undertaken by the Trust’s new Mid-Ulster Community Palliative Care team in partnership with CRUSE Bereavement Support and St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt.  Year 10 pupils were invited to take part after participating in a ‘Grief Ally’ workshop which explored how grief can impact young people, coping strategies and how peer support can help.

During Dying Matters Awareness Week, the winners were announced at a special event hosted by the school. Well done to Imogen (first place), Zuzanna (second place) and Dan (third) who were presented with a certificate and gift voucher while all those who took part received a certificate and a token of appreciation.

Public vote

The pupils’ artwork went on display in Meadowlane Shopping Centre, with the public encouraged to vote for their favourites before the overall winners were selected by local artists and a service user.

The cards will now be sent by the Community Specialist Palliative Care Team to family members and loved ones they continue to support following a death.

Fiona Gilmour, the Northern Trust’s Macmillan Palliative Care Service Improvement Lead, said: “This has been an exciting opportunity to engage with local young people on this important topic, to help increase their awareness and understanding of grief and loss and promote compassionate peer support to those who experience bereavement.

“We are delighted that the school embraced this emotive project and that pupils engaged with the workshop and produced such beautiful artwork.”


Gavin Quinn, Senior Leader in St. Mary’s, added: “Schools play an important role in promoting positive mental health and emotional well-being among young people.  This includes equipping them with the skills to cope with the challenges they will encounter in life, encouraging them to seek help if they are struggling and developing their understanding of how they can support each other at times of need.

“The Grief Ally workshop recognises the reality that, in any school community, there will be young people who have been affected by bereavement.  It provides a space for pupils to discuss this sensitive issue and to develop their awareness of how they can help someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.”

The Community Palliative Care team provides care and support to people and their families at home and includes a palliative care dietitian, social worker, chaplain and doctor. It works closely with GPs, district nursing and community hospice nurses, with a focus on helping people to live well with their palliative illness and providing support and comfort in the last days of life.

Bereavement support and palliative care resources

Hope Again from Cruse Bereavement Support

Bereaved NI 

Compassionate Communities Northern Ireland 


School pupils in uniform holding artwork, standing in a group along with a number of adults
Year 10 pupils from St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt who took part in the HeART of Palliative Care bereavement card competition pictured with (back row), Principal Mr McClean, (second row l to r), Edel McCann, Community Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker, Liam Horner, competition judge, Eleanor Ellerslie, Cruse Children and Young Person’s Project Manager, Rhonda Redfern, competition judge, Mrs Patton, Head of Year 10, and Mr Quinn, Senior Leader.



A male volunteer wearing a green t-shirt with the Macmillan logo on it shows a leaflet to a woman. They are standing inside the Information Pod in Causeway Hospital.

Cancer support volunteer roles now available at Causeway Hospital

Have you ever thought about volunteering?

Opportunities are available now to join the volunteer team at the Macmillan Information and Support Pod in Causeway Hospital.

Located in the main entrance area, this important resource is a partnership initiative between the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The pod offers a wide range of free guidance and confidential advice to people living with cancer, as well as their families, friends and carers within a friendly and welcoming environment. As an Information and Support Volunteer, you will ensure that anyone with questions about cancer, ranging from managing symptoms to advice around benefits and financial support, are able to easily access the information they require, and are signposted to other services as necessary.

Skills and abilities

If you are an open and compassionate person, with good listening skills and an ability to build a rapport with others, then please consider getting involved.

Volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience, and in this role you will engage directly with people, and make a difference in their time of need. All volunteers receive full support, and you’ll be able to avail of training opportunities.

If you would like to find out more or to request an application pack email:

The closing date for this role is Monday 20 May 2024 at 4pm

Suitability conversations will take place on Wednesday 22 May 2024 in Causeway Hospital

Training will be held on Tuesday 11 June from 9am-4pm at Ulster University, Coleraine.

Please note, registration may close before this date if the threshold of expression of interest is reached.






Staff members stand together in the Neonatal Unit. There is a framed award beside them on the wall.

UNICEF’s Baby-Friendly Award recognises exceptional care at Antrim Area Hospital Neonatal Unit

Antrim Area Hospital’s Neonatal Unit has retained its prestigious Baby Friendly award from UNICEF.

The recent re-accreditation follows on from its initial success last year. It remains the only Neonatal Unit in Northern Ireland to hold the recognition, acknowledging the exceptional standard of care provided to sick and vulnerable babies and their families.

Welcoming the news, the Northern Trust’s Executive Director of Nursing Suzanne Pullins said: “Our Neonatal Unit staff do a very special job every day, caring for some of our most vulnerable babies and their parents during some of their most worrying and challenging days.

“A lot of work went in to achieving this award for the first time and it is hugely rewarding to continue on our journey and receive our first re-accreditation. The award recognises how our multidisciplinary team supports parents to develop close bonds and loving relationships with their preterm or sick baby, their commitment to increasing breastfeeding rates and the value they place on parents as partners in their baby’s care, so that ultimately all babies get the best possible start in life.”

Global programme

UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative is a global programme which aims to transform healthcare for babies, their mothers and families as part of a wider global partnership between UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Anne Woods, UNICEF’s Deputy Programme Director said: “I would like to pass on congratulations from everyone at UNICEF UK for this excellent achievement.”

Some of the simple but effective measures implemented in the Neonatal Unit as part of the Baby Friendly programme include the provision of:

  • Comfortable recliner chairs for use by breastfeeding mothers;
  • Breast pumps for each cot space;
  • More privacy screens to encourage mothers to pump breastmilk 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.


Northern Trust logo and loud speaker icon

Medicine and Emergency Medicine Service User Engagement Panel

The next Medicine and Emergency Medicine (MEM) Service User Engagement Panel session will take place on Tuesday 4 June from 6pm – 7:30pm in Bretten Hall, Antrim Area Hospital.

It will cover the SAFER Patient Flow Bundle, which is a practical tool used by staff in MEM wards to try to minimise unnecessary delays for patients.

It is based on the ethos that a patient’s time is the most valuable currency in healthcare. It is focused on all staff working together to treat acute symptoms promptly, optimise patient experience and safety and enable patients to be discharged in a timely manner.  Discharge planning should begin on admission and should involve the patient, their relatives and carers (as appropriate) and the whole multidisciplinary team, all working together to achieve a smooth and timely discharge.

To register your interest in joining the service user engagement panel or to confirm your attendance at the next panel session please email


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

Members of the MEM Service User Engagement Panel 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 now wants 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.
Moyra Mills, Macmillan Service Improvement Lead, Jessica Morrow, Macmillan Volunteer, Elizabeth McCurry, Macmillan volunteer, Bernadette McGarry, Macmillan Information & Support Manager, Jennifer Welsh, Northern Trust Chief Executive, Amy Wilson, Macmillan Information & Support Manager, Nuala Harraghy, Macmillan Partnership Manager and Kristy-Lee Greene, Lead Cancer Nurse standing in the hospital foyer. Two are holding a small Macmillan-branded placard

Re-opening of Macmillan’s Cancer Information and Support Pod at Causeway Hospital

A special event has taken place to mark the official re-opening of the Cancer Information and Support Pod in Causeway Hospital.

Located in the foyer area, the pod is operated by Macmillan Cancer Support, in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

It is home to a wealth of valuable information and support for patients, carers and anyone affected by cancer, with trained volunteers available throughout the week.

Macmillan Information and Support Manager, Amy Wilson, said: “The pod provides a friendly environment where anyone can access free, confidential information and advice on all aspects of living with, and beyond, cancer.

“For both our patients and their families, a cancer diagnosis can be a very worrying time, but by bringing together comprehensive, appropriate and accurate information we hope to be able to alleviate some of those concerns.

“We were delighted to see so many of our volunteers, staff and Macmillan colleagues at our recent event, and we would encourage anyone who could benefit from our help to stop by for a chat.”


Alongside a wide-range of Macmillan information booklets, covering everything from emotional support to advice on benefits and finances, volunteers within the pod can also signpost users to:

  • Local services including counselling, complementary therapies, physical activity programmes and more.
  • Family support services.
  • Practical help around transport, help at home and travel insurance.
  • Benefits advice and other sources of financial help.
  • Work support and information.
  • Support programmes to help those with cancer manage the effects of their condition, both during and after treatment, eg fatigue management workshops

No appointment is necessary so if you would like to visit the pod simply drop in during opening hours to speak with a volunteer and share your questions with them.

Find out more by emailing or ring 028 9442 4000 ext 333079.