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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.

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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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Health & Beauty

Swann Outlines Plans to Tackle Smoking Harms

Health Minister Robin Swann has outlined plans that will continue to tackle the harms caused to children and young people by tobacco and second-hand smoking.

The Health Minister laid out his plans to prioritise and progress regulations on smoking in cars when children are present, as well as preventing the sale of nicotine inhaling products to those aged under 18.

Minister Swann said: “The use of tobacco continues to be a primary cause of preventable ill-health and premature death in Northern Ireland. It is vital that we maximise our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and protect people, particularly children, from the effects of second- hand smoke.”

Legislation is already in place which bans smoking in certain premises, places and vehicles including on public transport and in work vehicles used by more than one person. The proposed new regulations would extend the current smoke-free provisions to private vehicles where children are present, when there is more than one person in the car and the vehicle is enclosed. It is also proposed that failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free private vehicle will be made an offence.

The Minister said: “Children and young people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of second hand smoke as they breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults. The Royal College of Physicians has reported that this can lead to increased risk of asthma, lower respiratory infections, middle ear disease, bronchitis, bacterial meningitis and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as reduced respiratory function.

“These planned regulations will play an important role in protecting children from the harms of nicotine addiction and tobacco use. I anticipate that, subject to Assembly approval, these regulations will be operational early next year.”

The Minister has also laid out his plans to prevent the sale of nicotine inhaling products, such as e-cigarettes, to anyone aged under 18, under the Health Miscellaneous Provisions Act (NI) 2016. It will also be an offence to purchase such products on behalf of a child (a proxy purchasing offence). These offences mirror current offences relating to tobacco sales.

Minister Swann said: “Nicotine is highly addictive and, according to the World Health Organisation, exposure to nicotine whilst still in adolescence can lead to long-term consequences for brain development. In addition to the potential long-term health implications of e-cigarette use by teenagers, there are also concerns that they may act as a gateway into smoking.

“Youth smoking prevalence in Northern Ireland has been steadily decreasing in recent years, and I do not wish to see this trend reversed because young people, who may not have been induced initially to smoke tobacco, instead become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

In conclusion, the Minister confirmed that the current Tobacco Control Strategy is to be extended.

“There have been a number of significant developments in the area of tobacco and nicotine control since the current strategy was introduced. As a result, a mid-term review was undertaken and work is ongoing to implement review recommendations. It is important that we allow sufficient time for the recommendations to be implemented. Therefore the current strategy will be extended for a further period of time. This will allow for actions to be taken forward that address the inequalities evident in tobacco use and the associated health outcomes.”

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