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New 10-year Cancer Strategy Consultation Launches

Health Minister Robin Swann has invited the public to have their say on a new 10-year Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland.

The draft strategy for 2021-2031 aims to place Northern Ireland at the forefront of world class cancer prevention, treatment and patient experience.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “We will all feel the impacts of cancer on our lives at some point so it is important that people participate in the consultation process and have their voice heard.

“Projections indicate that cancer cases in Northern Ireland will double by 2040, therefore there is a need to move forward urgently to implement the recommendations outlined in this strategy.

“My vision is to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland, wherever they live, has equitable and timely access to the most effective, evidence-based referral, diagnosis, treatment, support and person centred cancer care.”

The draft strategy consists of 67 recommendations drawn from the best available evidence and reflecting the voices of people who use and work in cancer services. The recommendations are across four key themes:

  •      Reduce the growth in the number of people diagnosed with preventable cancers
  •      Diagnosis and treatment – to improve survival
  •      Patient experience – to improve the experience of people diagnosed with cancer
  •      Implementing the Strategy

Underlining the significant funding required for delivery of the strategy, Minister Swann, said: “This 10-year strategy is ambitious and will require recurrent funding that is not available from within existing Departmental budgets. It will require a collective effort if we are to deliver on the recommendations to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for all those who need it now and in the years ahead.”

Chief Nursing Officer Professor Charlotte McArdle, Co-Chair of the Department of Health steering group tasked with developing the new strategy said: “We believe we can do better for people who have cancer and that we should have the ambition to have a world class service which is based on improving outcomes for everyone diagnosed with cancer. Transformational change will be required to enable us to provide high quality care for all those who need it in the future.

“We also need to take responsibility for our own health and consider the actions we can take to reduce the risk of developing cancer. There is undeniable evidence of the impact of smoking, poor diet and obesity on cancer rates. The use of sun beds and exposure to sunlight are the major contributing factors to the very significant increase in skin cancer which is the most common type of cancer in Northern Ireland.”

Acknowledging the inputs of all those who supported the development of the strategy Professor McArdle said: “The strategy has been developed through co-production and has brought together people with lived experience of cancer, cancer charities, healthcare professionals from across all Health and Social Care Trusts, the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Primary Care, and policy makers.”

A cancer recovery plan ‘Building Back; Rebuilding better’ was published by the Department in June to deal with the current backlogs and immediate pressures.

The consultation will close on 20 October 2021 and the EQIA will close on 17 November 2021.

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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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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