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Building for the Future


By Valerie Watts, HSCB Chief Executive

Since I took up post as Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) in the summer of 2014, the one thing that has struck me more than anything is the dedication and commitment of everyone in the HSCB to doing the best they can for all patients and service users.

On a daily basis, HSCB staff, who come from a wide range of medical, social care, professional, and skilled backgrounds, go the extra mile, whether that is in the planning of innovative services to meet the needs of local communities, supporting the delivery of high quality care, enhancing primary care services, protecting the vulnerable, embracing new technologies, or in promoting learning across the system.

I am very conscious that since the announcement in November 2015 by Minister Hamilton, confirmed by Minister O’Neill in 2016, that the HSCB will close, there has been a lot of uncertainty for the HSCB and the wider system during this period of transition. However, the one constant throughout has been the professionalism of staff to keep on striving to improve care for everyone in Northern Ireland.

And, as we continue to work with the wider health and social care family to ensure future arrangements continue to support reform, innovation and the delivery of the highest quality of care, I am confident that the key work and firm foundations laid down by the HSCB staff provide an excellent footing for moving forward.

Photograph of the exterior of the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin.

State of the Art North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin.

In the last six months alone, the HSCB, working with a wide range of health, social care and community partners, have helped enable some truly amazing services to be put in place.

In a unique collaboration, the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin, which was officially opened by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, is providing comprehensive oncology and treatment services, including radiotherapy to patients in the West, North Coast and Donegal. The state-of-the-art building fitted, with world-class equipment and staffed by truly dedicated and talented cancer care professionals, will greatly improve access to treatment and reduce travelling times, while importantly improving patients’ outcomes and overall experience.

Photograph taken at the opeing of the North West Cancer Centre of the Duchess of Cornwall meeting HSC staff.

HSCB Director of Commissioning Dean Sullivan meets the Duchess of Cornwall at the official opening of the North West Cancer Centre.

In the Ballycastle and surrounding areas, an innovative partnership approach, ‘Living Well Moyle’ is providing social support to people with long term conditions helping them to reconnect with their local communities and to improve their health and wellbeing. The project is underway and will be evaluated robustly. Evaluations of similar Living Well approaches in England have shown significant reductions in hospital attendances and admissions, as well as marked improvements in people’s wellbeing.

To help address some of the pressure in primary care, it is anticipated that there will be 170 pharmacists, based in GP practices across Northern Ireland, in post by June 2017 to allow GPs more time to spend with patients and improve patient outcomes.

Photograph of Prince Charles speaking to a male inpatient at the North West Cancer Centre.

Prince Charles speaks to a patient at the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin.

This is only a snapshot of some of the work that is making a big difference to people’s lives, other examples of innovative projects and pieces of work are highlighted in this ezine.

Moving forward, I am absolutely certain that the knowledge, expertise and dedication of HSCB staff will be a lynchpin in the future of health and social care in Northern Ireland. We must learn from the past and build on what works.