Former MLA Dawn Purvis named as new Chair of HIV Charity Positive Life

Dawn Purvis has been announced as the new chairperson of Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity, Positive Life.

The former MLA takes up the post after serving on the board of Positive Life for several years. She replaces Colum Conway who has been appointed as head of Social Work England.

Approximately 100 new cases of HIV are diagnosed every year in Northern Ireland and the numbers of new diagnoses continue to rise, unlike the rest of the UK where they are falling.

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Recently Positive Life, Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity revealed that the numbers of people with HIV accessing its services has almost doubled in just one year. New statistics showed that there was over an 80% increase since 2017. This unprecedented increase is a result of several wide-ranging campaigns to raise awareness around sexual health, stigma and support services.

Positive Life support services includes Counselling, Complementary Therapies, Social Events, Family Support along with Rapid HIV Testing. In many cases, Positive Life offers the only real and meaningful contact that those living with HIV have due to the overwhelming impact of the stigma around the condition here in Northern Ireland. 

Purvis takes up the role as Chair in the lead into World AIDS Day which takes place on 1 December and is one the focal points of the year for the charity.

Dawn Purvis, new chairperson of Positive Life said:

“I’m honoured to be taking up the role of chair of Positive Life. Last year saw the number of people in Northern Ireland living with HIV pass the 1000 mark and the number of Positive Life service users doubling. This shows just how vital the work carried out by our staff and volunteers is to help those affected live healthy lives and ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.”

“I’m keen that the lived experience of those with HIV in Northern Ireland remains at the heart of everything we do. One of the biggest issues that impacts our service users is the persistence of the all too common and harmful misconceptions around HIV and the daily stigma faced by those living with it.”

“We know that HIV doesn’t discriminate. We know that it can affect people regardless of their gender, religion, age or sexuality. We know this, but without an Assembly, without a Health Minister and a comprehensive sexual health strategy, there are no proactive measures being taken to combat the stigma that still surrounds HIV.”

“I will use my term as chair to further the issue of sexual health education and empowerment and push to end the stigma around the issue which is now a manageable lifelong condition and not the death sentence it once was.”

Chief Executive of Positive Life, Jacquie Richardson:

I am absolutely thrilled Dawn has taken up the post of chair of Positive Life. The organisation will benefit greatly from her skillset and experience, including her strong corporate governance knowledge. Dawn brings to this challenging position her caring, sympathetic personality and her exemplary commitment to helping those in Northern Ireland with HIV.”

“One of the most important jobs we have is combatting the stigma around getting tested and encouraging as many people as possible to take control of their own sexual health. There should be no embarrassment or shame in getting a HIV test if a person feels that they are at risk and the fact that there is has a direct and devastating impact on people’s lives.”

 

Brown O'Connor Communications Political and Business Events Forward Look September/October

September – October 2018

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September

3 September, Next Belfast City Council Meeting

5 September, Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI House of Commons reception

6 September, Social Media Belfast, Titanic Belfast

6&7 September, RHI inquiry with former Minister Jonathan Bell

10 September, Nominations for Irish Presidential Election close

12 September, NI Chamber Annual Networking Conference & Business Showcase

13 September, House of Commons, Conference Recess

14 September, IoD NI Young Directors Forum, Boojum, Allstate, Belfast

14 September, NI Affairs Select Committee Deadline for evidence on Education Budget Inquiry 

20 September, Next Belfast City Council Brexit Committee

22 September, NI Health & Fitness Awards, Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge  

23 September, Labour Party Conference, Liverpool

26 September, Derry City and Strabane District Council Investment/City Deal Event, London

27 September, Northern Ireland Energy Forum, Titanic Belfast

30 September, Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham

October

1 October, Closing date for entries for Women in Business Awards

1 October, Closing date for entries for NI Corporate Finance Awards

5 October, IoD NI Young Directors Conference 2018, Merchant Hotel, Belfast

8 October, In Camera Lunch with Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary, Department of Finance

9 October, Irish Budget (expected)

11 October, 2018 NILGA Annual Conference and Exhibition, Armagh City Hotel

12 October, Derry Chamber of Commerce Presidents Dinner

16 & 17 October, Hospitality Exchange 2018, Crowne Plaza Belfast

18 October, In-Camera Dinner with Head of the NI Civil Service, David Sterling

18 October, Big Data Belfast, Waterfront Hall

19 October, CIPR Awards, Culloden Hotel

25 October, CBI NI Annual Lunch, Titanic Belfast

26 October, Irish Presidential election

29-31 October, Build Peace Conference, Ulster University

International Law Firm Eversheds Sutherland Plans to Double Belfast Staff by 2020

International law firm, Eversheds Sutherland, has announced plans to double the size of its Belfast office by 2020.

The expansion is expected to bring the headcount to over 30 in the next year and a half with a focus on litigation, real estate, employment and banking. The current number of staff is 15 including 3 partners.

Originally set up as a satellite office 2015 with only six staff, the permanent presence in Belfast city centre was established due to the demand for its services.

The announcement comes as the firm is also set to grow its Dublin office which already houses 275 people.

Eversheds Sutherland Ireland managing partner, Alan Murphy:

“Since the opening of our Belfast office in 2015 we have gained a real foothold in Northern Ireland which has been reflected in our growth in colleague numbers and revenue.

 Alan Murphy

Alan Murphy

“The success of the Belfast office has been fantastic in such a short space of time and it has given us the confidence to invest to meet the demand for our services. We are hugely committed to Northern Ireland and are thrilled that our performance is allowing us to build further.”

“We are assured that our ambition and ongoing success will attract a range of talent who want to work for a law firm with global reach from Belfast.”

He added:

“Brexit has offered, and continues to offer, challenges and opportunity for our local and international clients and to have such a strong presence across the island of Ireland we can assist them seamlessly.”

“Many of our partners and staff work on a cross border basis which is a great asset for our client base and our own colleagues in the likes of the US, Far East and European centres.”  

NI Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Health Funding Priorities in the 18/19 Budget

The Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee has published its Terms of Reference for its call for written evidence into funding priorities for Health in the 2018/2019 budget. 

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The deadline is 24th August and the Committee invites written evidence on the following issues:

  • Are the funds allocated to the Department of Health in the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill sufficient to improve levels of performance across the Health and Social Care (HSC) service in Northern Ireland?
  • What will be the consequences for the HSC that follow from the decision by the Secretary of State to allow £100m of existing funding ring-fenced for capital to be invested in ongoing public service provision?
  • Should the UK Government ensure that additional confidence and supply funding earmarked for specific areas is spent on those areas, and if so how?
  • Which areas of health and social care are under most pressure and how could funding be used to alleviate these pressures?
  • How could funding be directed to meet the changing patterns of demand that arise from an ageing population?
  • How can access to cancer treatment and drugs be improved in Northern Ireland?
  • How could funding be targeted to reduce waiting times for elective care?
  • How could funding in the short-term be used to bring about long-term transformational change in the HSC?
  • Does the current HSC workforce model secure value for money?

Petition backing Community Pharmacy reaches over 120,000 signatures

The public petition to save local community pharmacy in Northern Ireland has now hit over 120k signatures. The petition officially closed on 9th July with the exact figure reaching 120,112.

The representative body for community pharmacy in Northern Ireland has said that the Department of Health can no longer ignore the sheer volume of patients and organisations now involved in the campaign.

 Gerard Greene, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI

Gerard Greene, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI

The petition which had 75,000 signatures around ten days ago has received a welcome boost as support from patients grows. The jump in over 45,000 signatures has come about due to local pharmacists encouraging a final push before sending back their completed petitions to the central co-ordinating team at the Community Pharmacy NI headquarters in Belfast. 

Community Pharmacists across Northern Ireland have taken the opportunity to engage and activate their regular patients to let them know exactly what the current crisis is about and how it could potentially impact on their healthcare provision.

The final petition push comes as the senior leadership from Community Pharmacy NI travelled to London last week to meet with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to highlight prolonged Government underfunding, additional funding cuts made in 2017/18 and to explain why the current funding model which sees many medicines dispensed at a loss, is inappropriate.

Background

Prior to the collapse of the NI Assembly, the last Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, outlined a commitment to continue to develop and resource community pharmacy-based initiatives over the next 10 years. However, this is now in jeopardy due to the fact that the Department of Health is under funding the cost of providing community pharmacy services by at least £20m.

This funding shortfall has been compounded in recent months by unprecedented generic medicines shortages leaving community pharmacists and their staff with a daily struggle to find many of the medicines needed by their patients. When they do source the items required, they can find themselves paying more than ten times the usual price, all without knowing if they will be fully reimbursed.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI commented

“In the past few days we have been inundated with our members returning page after page of petition signatures. We are overwhelmed, but not entirely surprised, as this quantity of feedback clearly shows how important local pharmacy is to people.”  

“Community Pharmacists are fighting for their future existence and have been activated to capture the support that we know is out there. Patients and patient groups have told us that they are extremely worried about this situation and are very concerned that some pharmacists are being forced to make tough decisions and how that might impact on their care.”

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“We are truly grateful to the many tens of thousands of people who have called in to their local pharmacy or gone online to show their support. They need us, and we need to be there for them in terms of clinical and social support, now, and in the longer term.” 

“Elected representatives, business leaders and patient representative organisations are standing with us. This huge public outpouring needs to be heard and recognised by the Department of Health. They can no longer keep their heads in the sand and hide behind the fact that there is no Assembly or Executive in place. They made the cuts in the first place and they have it within their gift to redress the funding issues and must do so urgently.”

 

Number of Service Users at HIV Charity Positive Life jumps 80%

Positive Life, Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity has revealed that the numbers of people with HIV accessing its services has almost doubled in just one year.

New statistics show that there was over an 80% increase (18 to 33) in the first quarter of 2017 in comparison to the first quarter in 2018.

This is an unprecedented increase for the HIV charity and comes off the back of several wide-ranging campaigns to raise awareness around sexual health, stigma and its support services.

 Positive Life CEO, Jacquie Richardson 

Positive Life CEO, Jacquie Richardson 

Positive Life support services includes Counselling, Complementary Therapies, Social Events, Family Support along with Rapid HIV Testing. In many cases, Positive Life offers the only real and meaningful contact that those living with HIV have due to the overwhelming impact of the stigma around the condition here in Northern Ireland. 

Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive of Positive Life commented:

“The courage of those living with HIV coming to us for support is very encouraging. Our work is to raise awareness about HIV, stigma and our services and this is the ultimate measurement of the effectiveness of that activity.”

“For someone to identify themselves to us as living with HIV takes huge personal sacrifice due to the stigma that is associated with the condition in Northern Ireland. There is a significant fear for anyone sharing a HIV+ diagnosis, even to us confidentially at Positive Life, that they are committing themselves to a death sentence and a lifetime of isolation.”

“To see such a rise in new service users is really exceptional and we want to do so much more to ensure that those who haven’t yet accessed our services are not afraid and come forward and allow us to help.”

“We have focussed our safer sex message to make the most impact with those at high risk, particularly among younger people, as we really want to see a decrease in new cases here in Northern Ireland. There has been an upward trajectory of new cases for far too long. We are hopeful we will see the benefits of this next year and the years to come as results are often slow to emerge due to the nature of people affected by HIV coming forward.”

Greater service provision for those with HIV requires funding and is needed to sustain the increased numbers accessing the services at Positive Life Chief Executive Richardson added: 

“However, we are providing these services on the same budget as the lower number of service users and this will not be sustainable for too much longer.”

“Although we are seeing more and more people coming through our door, the financial resources that we have stays the same putting our ability to provide for the new cases under extreme pressure.”

New £7.3million Newry Whiskey Distillery Gets Green Light

Planning permission has been granted for a new £7.3million Whiskey Distillery, Bar, Restaurant and Visitor Centre on Monaghan Street in Newry.

The green light to proceed was given by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council at its latest planning committee yesterday.

Backed by well-known Newry businessman and entrepreneur, Michael McKeown, the historical location will see the revival of the Matt D’Arcy & Company business on the site which goes back as far as 1817.

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Not only will there be a fully restored Victorian bar, restaurant and international visitors centre, the site will be returned to its former use as a fully functioning whiskey distillery producing single malt for the premium market on the international stage. The size of the entire project site is expected to be around 14,000 square feet over several floors with the £7.3million investment spread over three years.

Around 50 hospitality jobs are set to be created alongside a Master Distiller and staff with cooperage skills to oversee the future maturation process of the whiskey that will be distilled at the Monaghan street site.

The restoration and build of the new distillery and facilities are expected to take around 18 months and, when completed, will bring forward a thriving international tourist attraction focusing on the US, Chinese, European and Australasian markets.

Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive, Matt D’Arcy & Company who has over 20 years international experience with a host of iconic Irish brands such as Jameson & the delivery of Ireland’s largest tourism initiative, The Gathering 2013, said:

“We are thrilled to have received such good news on the positive planning decision. This will now see us move to the next stage of the plans for Matt D’Arcy.”

“This is a really special development which will create jobs, fill local hotels and bring many tourists to this key attraction on the eastern corridor of Ireland, perfectly positioned between Belfast and Dublin.”

“We have already received a significant amount of interest in the plans to develop the Irish whiskey tourism offering on this part of the island which we believe will be very successful.”

“The Irish whiskey market is hugely successful and growing at a significant rate. Last year the market produced a modest 9 million cases with the 2020 target of 12 million cases looking like it will be exceeded.”

“Our ambition is to create a world class tourist offering through the restoration of the 200 year old site famous for whiskey distillation. Our ultimate aim is to produce around 9000 cases per year of single malt and to retain stocks for at least 10 years aimed at the premium market.” 

“For some years now, we have been maturing our own whiskey off site and will release a premium matured merchant Irish Whiskey in early 2019 prior to distilling at the Monaghan Street location on completion of the construction phase.” 

“Very soon we will be creating roles for a specialist Whiskey distiller, maturation experts and are also at the developmental stages to bring forward the first recognised cooperage course to train young apprentices and rekindle a dying art.”

Michael McKeown, owner and investor of Matthew D’Arcy & Company added:

“We took our time in bringing forward the plans to make sure that we got the proposal for the restoration of such a key site in Newry just right. The development of this location into a flagship international tourist attraction has been a passion of mine for some time and is an exciting investment.”

“I’m thrilled that we are now moving forward with enthusiasm and that the benefits of this great asset will be felt by the business and hospitality sectors locally and nationally.” 

 

 

A staggering 75,000 sign public petition to save Community Pharmacy

The public petition calling on the Department of Health to save the local community pharmacy network here has now reached a staggering 75,000 signatures.

The petition which is displayed in every community pharmacy in Northern Ireland, has been signed by over 70,500 patients and customers in person with 4,500 adding their support online.

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The petition was launched in reaction to the crisis in community pharmacy in Northern Ireland which is under sustained attack due to Government cuts and consistent underfunding.

Currently there is a deficit of at least £20m in funding provided to community pharmacy meaning that community pharmacists are dispensing many medicines at a loss, putting many under unacceptable financial pressures. Many have said that the current situation is putting patient safety at risk as workforce issues have increased the chances of mistakes being made.

Patients who have signed the petition are expressing worry and fear that they may not be able to get the medicines they need to manage their conditions and that the closure of their local pharmacy could have severe consequences for public health.

The petition is expected to reach over 100,000 as the groundswell of support grows and the call for action from the Department of Health sounds louder.

 Warning: Gerard Greene, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI 

Warning: Gerard Greene, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI 

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI said:

“There has been a huge reaction to this petition which was only launched last month. People have been coming out in their tens of thousands to show their support.”

“There is unmistakable evidence of just how reliant many are on their local chemist. We have been inundated with calls about the level of fear of losing such as vital service by potential pharmacy closures.”

“There is a real threat that the continued under funding by the Department of Health will result in pharmacies closing. Patients and patient groups have told us that they are extremely worried about this situation and are very concerned that some pharmacists are being forced to make tough decisions and how that might impact on their care.”

“The frontline services that community pharmacists provide are under attack and the prolonged government underfunding is putting huge financial strain on many, so much so that it is impacting on the health and well-being of community pharmacists across Northern Ireland. We are now in a dire situation and one which we are not prepared to sit back and accept.”

“Our members have a responsibility to ensure that we help patients stay well and prevent illness wherever possible, but there is an unseen side to the profession that must be supported before there is any further impact.”

 “Due to this current situation we have no option but to speak out, and we must stand up and fight for our patients and demand that action be taken by the Department of Health to protect the vital patient services provided in community pharmacies.”

“We are asking that as many people as possible sign the petition at their local pharmacy or go online to Change.org and show their support https://www.change.org/p/department-of-health-northern-ireland-save-the-northern-ireland-community-pharmacy-network

HIV Charity Chief welcomes new HIV Prevention Pilot under Health Transformation Fund

Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive of Positive Life reacting to the news that PrEP will be made available in Northern Ireland as part of a new HIV Prevention Pilot funded by the Health Transformation Fund said: 

 Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive, Positive Life 

Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive, Positive Life 

“We welcome the latest news from the Department of Health that a new £450,000 HIV prevention pilot programme will be rolled out as part of the recent allocation under the Health Transformation Fund.”

“We understand that as part of that pilot project, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) will be made available in Northern Ireland for those at high risk of exposure to HIV.”

“We are encouraged that the Department has used the transformation fund to target the growing concern that HIV has become in Northern Ireland. We also welcome the fact that this is not simply PrEP on demand, but that this will play one part of a range of services which includes information on safer sex education, counselling and testing.”

“HIV is indiscriminate and we have a real opportunity through this type of pilot to empower people to take charge of their own sexual health and reduce the instances of HIV diagnoses here.”

“HIV is increasing in Northern Ireland with around 100 new diagnoses each year. We want to make sure that everything that can be done to support those in need or ensure those at most risk have opportunities to prevent themselves from contracting HIV.”

New Report: Councils with more powers and responsibilities is good for NI

A new report commissioned by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association has said that the time is now right to extend the responsibilities of local government in Northern Ireland through greater devolution from Stormont.

The report ‘Devolution within Northern Ireland’ authored by the independent New Policy Institute, states that the opportunity now exists to unlock the potential of local government as the hub of public services and one which has a key part to play to solving the current paralysis.

 Derek McCallan, NILGA Chief Executive

Derek McCallan, NILGA Chief Executive

Councils here - as in England, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland - could have direct responsibility for services and, like elsewhere, undertake scrutiny of matters which remain the direct responsibility of the NI Executive or its agencies, the report states.

The report highlights:

  • Councils were responsible for less than 4% (£738m) of public spending in NI in 2015/16, compared with 27% in Scotland and Wales.
  • The NI Executive’s 88% share of total public spending was more than double that of the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
  • Neighbourhood services are the New Policy Institute’s main candidates for devolution to councils which cover local highways and transport, cultural and related services, environment, regulation, planning and regeneration, plus business and skills development. At present, councils are responsible for under half of them. If they took them all, they would be responsible for just seven per cent of total NI public spending.
  • Councils could also exercise scrutiny over areas of spending, for example aspects of social care and public health, which remain the responsibility of the Executive or its agencies. Scotland’s Local Governance Review is a model which could be adopted to examine this approach in NI.

Derek McCallan, Chief Executive of NILGA commented:

“It must be recognised that to keep Northern Ireland moving forward, greater devolution of responsibilities with proper financial resourcing must be put on the table, not just as the antidote to current paralysis but to strengthen democratic input by local people in the longer term in how we spend £21 billion per annum here.”

“It’s the norm in all other places.”

“It’s not a drive for independence or a power grab, by local government, that’s a shallow view. Rather, it is based on evidence and recognition that councils can carry more resources and responsibilities (given the success of the new local government system) away from the Executive and the central government to keep local services being delivered with an appropriate level of democratic scrutiny, which serves communities better.”

“This independent report provides us with evidence that this works in Scotland and Wales and is not an alien concept - places where a quarter of their £50 billion annual budgets are delivered in a far more cost effective & localised way.”

“We have taken action in the absence of political (Ministerial) decision taking, re-convened an elected member forum, drawn from central and local government members, so that we can map out how this can happen; we’re very keen to develop further our work with parties, councils and NILGA’s many partners in business, the voluntary and community sector, education, health and more”.