Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

As Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2007-11) I was responsible for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland.

Primary Care

Free Prescriptions

  • Minister announced that Prescription Charges would be frozen in March 2008
  • Charges reduced to £3.00 from January 2009
  • Free prescriptions introduced on 1 April 2010

Generic Medicine

  • £76m savings made in prescribing costs – on track to save £88m by 2011

Service Framework for Respiratory Health and Well-being’ Healthcare Infrastructure – over £5m invested to improve services for respiratory diseases

Primary Care Infrastructure

  • Continued investment in Primary and Community Care Centres, including:
  • £10m Knockbreda Heath & Care Centre
  • £16.5m Portadown Centre
  • Further Centres to open in Portadown, Beechall, Shankill, Dunmurray, Ards, Bangor, Ballymena, Larne, Carrickfergus, Omagh & Lisnaskea.

24/7 Nursing care on Rathlin Island.

Dental Services

  • £17m pound health service dentistry contract.
  • Oasis Dental Care provide 38 new health service dentists in access hotspots across Northern Ireland – providing services for 57,000 people across Northern Ireland.
  • Practices included Dungannon, Strabane, Holywood, Enniskillen, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Cookstown, Banbridge, Dundonald Bangor, Lisburn, Carryduff and Omagh.

Secondary Care

Hospital Waiting Times reduced

Infrastructure Investment

  • Altnagelvin,£33m South Wing Development
  • Enniskillen new £270m acute hospital
  • Enhanced local hospital for Omagh.
  • Downe new £64m hospital
  • Craigavon Area Hospital new £9.4m trauma and orthopaedic facility
  • New Critical Care Building and ward block (costing £190 million) for the Ulster Hospital.
  • £26 million investment in a state of the art medical imaging centre in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
  • Ashgrove Intensive support unit for young people at Ards Hospital at a cost of £1.6 million.

Review of Maternity Care

  • Investment of £4.1m in to Maternity services in Craigavon
  • £1.5m investment in fertility services
  • Investment in Daisy Hill Maternity Service.

Ambulance Investment

  • £17m capital investment 60 new ambulances

Mental Health and Disability Services

  • Ring fenced Mental Health, Made a priority.
  • Autism Strategic Plan – independent review of Autism Services in 2008 followed by launch of New Strategic Action Plan in June 2009.
  • Acquired Brain Injury Plan: Review commissioned in March 2008 to examine services for people with acquired traumatic brain injury in Northern Ireland.  Action Plan launched for public consultation in March 2009. Regional Acquired Brain Injury Implementation Team established to take forward Action Plan
  • Speech, Language and Communication Therapy Action Plan to improve SLT services for children and young people
  • £27m investment in Health and Wellbeing Centres in West Belfast
  • £2.2m investment in facility for disabled children based at the former Omagh Hospital site.
  • £9m Beechcroft adolescent mental health mental facility opened at Foster Green.
  • £3.95m Iveagh treatment and assessment centre for children and young people with learning difficulties.
  • ‘Lifeline’ Suicide helpline launched in January 2008 with investment of £3.5m per annum.  Calls average 1,500 per week.  From Jan 2008 to Dec 2009 157,000 calls have made to the service.
  • Card Before you Leave introduced April 2009: A&E patients presenting with a mental health problem (and who need a follow up appointment with mental health services) will receive an appointment before leaving A&E.
  • Opened the Bluestone Mental Health Unit in Craigavon Area Hospital.

Child Care

  • Children (Emergency Protection Orders) Bill: Royal Assent in Jan 2008
  • Vetting & Barring scheme launched in March 2009.
  • Safeguarding Board Bill introduced to assembly on 8 June 2010.  Second stage completed on 22 June 2010.
  • Adoption – Legislation regarding modernising Adoption legal framework to be progressed through the Assembly Process
  • Launched “ARIS”Adoption information database
  • Family and Parenting Strategy launched in March 2009.
  • Launched a new regional directory of services for victims and survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
  • Invested over £20m during the current CSR period to sustain existing and develop new services for family support, children in care and care leavers. Further £3.5m investment in these and public protection arrangements announced last year.
  • The Department has increased spending in the current round of funding for child protection services by 14%.

Elderly Care

New Day Centre for the elderly in Ballybeen at the cost of £1.4million.

Bayview Day Centre for the elderly in Bangor at a cost of £4.6 million

Health Protection

  • Established the first Public Health agency in the United Kingdom which is a multi-disciplinary, multi-professional body responsible for improving the health of the population, health protection and support of policy and research development.  One of it’s key targets was to address health inequalities.
  • Introduced the new hospital visiting guidelines – emphasised hygiene measures and introduced structured visiting times as a means of promoting infection control.
  • C Diff & MRSA: Significant investment in new measures to ensure cleanliness in hospitals including investment and updating of Ward Sisters Charter, regional hand hygiene campaign, MRSA screening, Rapid Response cleaning teams, Online regional infection control manual, Antimicrobial pharmacist in each trust etc
    • Cases of C Diff and MRSA have dropped by 54% and 44% respectively since 2006/07.
  • In March 2009, Breast Cancer screening extended to women up to 70 years of age in 2009 and Bowel screening is launched in April 2010.
  • HPV vaccination programme for 12/13-year old girls was introduced in September 2008 to prevent cervical cancer.
  • Tobacco –legislation to increase the age of sale extended to Northern Ireland in September 2008.  Working to bring forward legislation in respect of prohibition on the display of tobacco products.
  • Sunbeds Bill introduced to the Assembly in May 2010 to regulate the Sunbed industry and put in place age restrictions on use of sunbeds.
  • Lead the response of the Northern Ireland Executive during the swine flu epidemic in 2009, including participating in daily COBRA calls and close liaison with Ministers in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin.

NI Fire Service

Huge capital investment

  • £26m investment in new fire appliances, fire fighting equipment, up to date IT systems and programme to modernize or replace fire stations. 14 new appliances costing £2.7 million purchased in 2009/10.
  • £1.6m invested in new mobile data system


Zero Tolerance Campaign Launched in June 2007

  • Action includes Posters and leaflets in hospitals and Healthcare Facilities;
  • the distribution of personal alarms,
  • A&E pilot scheme in conjunction with PSNI at Belfast City Hospital,
  • Accountability for Zero Tolerance  at senior level at every trust,
  • £125K investment in training for frontline staff and
  • Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill which will allow certain members of staff to remove those who cause nuisance and disturbance.

New Health & Social Care Reform Bill passed in Jan 2009

  • HSC bodies have reduced from 38 to 17.
  • New simplified and focused structures will be more efficient, delivering £53m annually in savings that can be directed back into front line services.

Agenda for Change

  • 99.9% of over 70,000 workers have received their new rates of pay and all arrears owed to them.


Implemented the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland ensuring that all present and former members of the military could access free healthcare.  Michael was an early supporter of the Military Healthcare Awards and was instrumental in supporting military personnel who were based in Northern Ireland  serving in Afghanistan. In 2010, Michael visited Camp Bastion to meet with and provide ongoing support to military personnel. 

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