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New Infected Blood Payments Introduced

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced new payments to beneficiaries of the Northern Ireland Infected Blood Payment Scheme.

On 25 March 2021 Minister Swann announced plans for a number of reforms to the NI Scheme to bring it into greater alignment with the financial support provided in in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Minister said: “Earlier this year I announced plans for improved financial support for those infected and/or affected by contaminated blood. I am delighted to confirm that all eligible beneficiaries on the Northern Ireland Scheme have now received backdated arrears. In addition, bereaved beneficiaries, who were themselves infected, will receive annual payments for being both infected and bereaved.”

Payments included increased lump sums for those who became infected with Hepatitis C and HIV as a result of treatment with NHS-supplied contaminated blood as well as improved annual financial support for bereaved spouses and partners.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in England has committed to funding of up to £4.5m for the additional lump sum payments and the increases to annual payments for beneficiaries of all the UK infected blood support schemes up to and including 2021/22.

The Minister continued: “For Scheme beneficiaries who have sadly passed away and who were not survived by a spouse or partner, the £10,000 bereavement lump sum has been paid to their estate.”

In addition to the improved lump sums and annual payments to the bereaved, Minister Swann also decided to introduce enhanced financial support for scheme beneficiaries with Hepatitis C stage 1 whose infection or treatment is considered to have a substantial and long-term adverse impact on their ability to carry out routine daily activities. 

The Minister said: “A targeted consultation will shortly commence to help determine the most appropriate away to assess eligibility for enhanced financial support for Hepatitis C stage 1. It is important that this new policy is developed in partnership with those infected and/ or affected.

“Regardless of which assessment model is applied to the Northern Ireland Scheme, the payment will be the same across all four nations and in line with the rate paid on the English scheme. 

“I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure those infected and/or affected by contaminated blood continue to get the support they need and deserve in recognition of the devastating impact this has had on their lives.”       

As part of the parity agreement, UK health ministers agreed that any future changes to national schemes will be subject to consultation between the UK Government and devolved administrations.

Health & Beauty

Launch of £5million ‘Healthy Happy Minds’ pilot for primary schools

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the start of the Healthy Happy Minds pilot to support therapeutic & counselling services in primary schools.

The pilot service will include all primary schools, special schools with a primary cohort and primary EOTAS provision and will run until the end of March 2022.

Speaking at the launch event in Brooklands Primary School, Michelle McIlveen said: “I welcome today’s launch of the Healthy Happy Minds £5million therapeutic & counselling service. Crucially it will allow pupils in all primary schools to participate in therapeutic & counselling services until the end of March 2022.

“The Healthy Happy Minds pilot is one of a range of measures supporting the implementation of the ‘Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing in Education Framework’, providing support to primary school pupils with an aim to prevent and reduce mental health issues.

“When we consider that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, the importance of promoting emotional health and wellbeing at the earliest stage is clear.”

Schools will receive allocations directly, 50% immediately and 50% in January 2022, to secure appropriate support for their children.

The Minister continued: “Alongside counselling, the Healthy Happy Minds pilot provides opportunity for a broad range of therapeutic interventions to be tested at primary school level including play, drama, music, art and equine assisted therapy & learning.

“Transitional arrangements will also operate beyond the end of March 2022 to ensure that no child engaging with counselling/therapeutic services is left unsupported.”

The Healthy Happy Minds pilot will be subject to an independent evaluation to determine the appropriateness of these interventions for primary schools going forward.

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Health & Beauty

Nursing and Midwifery ‘Leaders of the Future’

Health Minister Robin Swann has said nurses and midwives have a massive opportunity to influence and contribute to the successful Transformation of Health and Social Care Services.

He was speaking at a presentation ceremony for 30 young nurses and midwives graduating from Northern Ireland’s Nightingale Challenge Global Leadership Development Programme (GLDP).

The GLDP is a bespoke leadership programme commissioned by Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle.

It was developed for 30 Northern Ireland nurses and midwives, across all Trusts, under the age of 35 who have a passionate interest in improving health locally and globally.

Congratulating graduates of the programme, the Minister said: “I know that the programme has helped to develop your global leadership and partnership working skills. It’s fantastic to hear that you have all grasped the opportunity to develop yourselves as senior and strategic leaders of the future.

“The transformation of our health and social care services is essential if we are to provide a modern and fit for purpose model of delivering health and social care. Nurses and midwives are one the largest work force in delivering care and accordingly I believe that they have a massive opportunity to both influence and contribute to the success of the Transformation Agenda.”

The Minister also took the opportunity to praise the outstanding contribution of nurses and midwives in the course of the Covid pandemic.

“This programme is of special significance to me. Back in January 2020, my first action as Health Minister was to officially launch the programme as part of Northern Ireland’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

“The participants were some of the first Health and Social Care staff that I was introduced to in my role. Whilst we were all aware at that time that they would face significant challenges none of us could have predicted just how vast those challenges would be.”

The Minister continued: “Since then I have been privileged to witness first-hand just how hard our nursing and midwifery professionals, and their teams, are working. You have adapted and overcome, whilst continuing to provide the best treatment, care and support possible, often in very complex clinical situations and changing circumstances.

“In presenting these medals to acknowledge your completion of the programme I can only once again thank you and all your colleagues across the health service family for your continued professionalism, and dedication.”

Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, also took the opportunity to congratulate graduates on their achievements: “The purpose of the programme was to empower and develop you as the next generation of nurses and midwives, to learn as leaders, practitioners and advocates in health, and in turn allow you to play your part in strengthening nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland by leading transformational change. You have all achieved this and more.”

Professor McArdle acknowledged that there is a still a significant challenge to rebuild the health service following Covid-19, but shared: “I have great comfort in knowing that the future of nursing and midwifery is in safe and capable hands.”

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