The Health Minister has launched a new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service which enables people to collect rapid COVID-19 tests from selected community pharmacies.
“Alongside vaccination and contact tracing, testing is one of the main pillars of protection against the virus,” the Health Minister said.
“1 in 3 people who have COVID-19 have no symptoms, or are pre-symptomatic. The introduction of the Pharmacy Collect service will significantly increase the range of locations that people who require rapid tests can access them.
“The service supplements the existing workforce testing schemes and other community collect sites, which can all be found using the Sitefinder website.
“By engaging in rapid COVID testing, we can help keep each other safe and play our part in helping society return to normality.”
To date 420 pharmacies in Northern Ireland have signed up for the scheme.
Rapid COVID-19 tests – known as Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests – have an important role in detecting asymptomatic cases. This means people who are infected but are showing no symptoms and may be unwittingly passing the virus on to others. Testing twice a week and on a regular basis with LFDs increases their detection rate. LFD tests are effective at picking up those who are most infectious.
Rapid tests are available for anyone who requires them. All results should be reported. Where someone receives a positive test, they should immediately self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test.
Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said: “The contribution of community pharmacy teams to the COVID-19 pandemic response has been invaluable and the introduction of the new Pharmacy Collect service will improve access to testing for the general public.
“This is another step forward to people getting their normal lives back. Many people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, but they can continue to spread the virus. Rapid tests, in conjunction with the wearing of masks, regular hand washing and social distancing, can help to prevent onward transmission of the virus.”
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.
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.”