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Reopening Close Contact Services is the Next Step Towards Better Days

Economy Minister Diane Dodds pictured with salon owner Martine Broggy and client Lorraine Calvert at the reopening of Natural Hair Company in Lisburn today.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds yesterday visited Natural Hair Company in Lisburn to mark the reopening of close contact services under the recent Coronavirus guidelines.

Speaking as she joined owner Martine Broggy as she reopened her business for clients, the Minister said: “This has been a difficult time for many traders and businesses across Northern Ireland. However, we are turning a corner. While we still have some ground to cover to return to complete normality, today’s reopening of close contact services and other easements of restrictions such as the re-opening of outdoor visitor attractions and activity centres is another positive next step towards better days ahead.

“Northern Ireland is now in a much better place than it was three months ago and we should keep looking forward. It is my priority to drive economic recovery and the re-opening of all business is so important to achieving this. Of course, every one of us can play our part in making this happen. It is important that anyone availing of these services from today adheres to the guidance to ensure a safe as well as an enjoyable experience. 

“I know men and women up and down the country have been counting the days until they could get their hair done! So, it is wonderful to see these services back.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds in Lisburn with salon owner Martine Broggy at the reopening of Natural Hair Company today.

Delighted to See Us Back

On a brief tour of her salon, Martine Broggy outlined for the Minister the safety measures she has put in place in preparation for the return of clients. These include, temperature checks, taking bookings by appointment only, sanitisation points, face coverings and PPE for her team.

Welcoming the Minister, Ms Broggy said: “We’d like to thank the Minister for visiting Natural Hair Company today to see for herself the measures we have put in place to reopen safely. My team and I have received so many message of support recently and it is so heartening to know that our clients are delighted to see us back at work. We have been waiting for this day for some time and we are so excited to get started.”

Later in the morning, the Minister also took the opportunity to visit a number of other businesses in the city including department store Smyth Patterson and food retailer Greens of Lisburn.

Health & Beauty

Update on Implementation of Mental Health Action Plan

A progress update on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Action Plan has been published.

The Action Plan was first published in May 2020 and contains 38 actions which will improve mental health services going forward. It also includes a plan on dealing with the mental health response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Commenting on the update, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “It is now 12 months since I published the Mental Health Action Plan and I felt it was important to provide an update on this work at this key juncture. 

“I am pleased to report substantial progress has been made against the actions contained in the Action Plan.  This is a considerable achievement, particularly given the additional, significant pressures related to Covid-19 and the challenges encountered by all those working to support people with mental ill health during this period.”

The progress update highlights key achievements including:

  • The creation of a Mental Health Champion;
  • Approval of the business case and securing of £4.7m funding for the development of a specialist perinatal mental health community service model;
  • The establishment of the CAMHS and Forensic Mental Health Managed Care Networks; and
  • The launch of a Mental Health Innovation Fund.

A number of reviews of key services were also commissioned as part of the Mental Health Action Plan including a review of: crisis services; transitions from CAMHS to Adult Mental Health Services; eating disorder services; personality disorder services; low secure in-patient services; and rehabilitation services.  The outworking of these reviews will help inform future strategic policy and service delivery.

Minister Swann continued: “The progress that has been made is due in no small part to the drive and dedication of so many people working tirelessly to improve services and to ensure that mental health is given the priority and profile it deserves.

“However, challenges remain and much still needs to be done. The Action Plan was always intended as a short term measure to kick start the reform of mental health services.”

One of the key actions set out in the Mental Health Action Plan was to develop a new, ten year Mental Health Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Concluding Minister Swann said: “The Strategy is my Department’s long term strategic plan to address the pressure on mental health inpatient beds, to meet the increased needs created by the pandemic, and to put mental health on an even footing with physical health.  I also hope it will bring us in line with mental health provision in other parts of the UK, and indeed, once fully implemented, ensure Northern Ireland has a world class mental health system to be proud of.”

The draft Mental Health Strategy 2021-31 was issued for public consultation in December 2020.  It is intended to publish the final Strategy this summer alongside a funding plan, which sets out the resource requirements to implement the Strategy.

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Health & Beauty

The Rainbow Project Welcome Introduction of Fair Project on Blood Donations

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) will soon be starting to assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis for declared lifestyle choices; instead of applying across-the-board restrictions which have previously excluded potential donors. Using a donor’s individual experiences to determine whether that person is eligible to donate makes the process fairer for all donors and means more people will be able to give blood than ever before.

It also means all donors will be asked the same questions – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

These changes to the way UK blood services assess the risk of transfusion transmitted infections incorporate the key recommendations of the 2020 FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) Report. The recommendations were designed by epidemiology, sexual health and infectious disease experts to make sure we keep the blood supply safe while making blood donation fairer and more accessible to all. NIBTS are working in collaboration with Rainbow Project to ensure all those eligible to donate blood can do so safely.


The new FAIR risk assessment will be implemented in England, Scotland and Wales will come into effect on 14th June 2021, while in Northern Ireland the change won’t come into effect until September 2021.

Best Available Medical Evidence

Speaking about the change, Director of The Rainbow Project John O’Doherty said: “We welcome the implementation of the Fair Report and the new rules surrounding blood donations. These changes mean a large number of people who have never been able to donate blood will be eligible to do so. We would like to thank the Health Minister, Robin Swann, for ensuring that decisions related to blood donations are based wholly on the best available medical evidence and that policies are implemented on a UK wide basis.

“This is an issue we have been campaigning on for over 10 years including the implementation of an individualised risk assessment. During that time, we have been clear that donating blood is not a right, but a civic responsibility on all of us who are eligible to do so. The focus of The Rainbow Project will now turn to encouraging all those people who are now eligible to register as blood donors. Security and sustainability in our blood supply is a continued pressure across our health service – and while vocal and visible support for the NHS during the pandemic is to be welcomed – one of the most effective ways we can support our NHS is through donating blood.

“While we are disappointed that Northern Ireland will not be implementing the new assessment at the same time as the rest of the UK, we understand the reasons behind this and welcome the ongoing communication from the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service and their commitment to ensuring staff are trained on the use of the new assessment process. The COVID 19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all aspects of our health service. Rather than spending the next 3 months condemning the Blood Transfusion Service, we will be directing our resources towards supporting the implementation of the new system and encouraging all those who are eligible to donate blood.

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