Shooting in Newry —those responsible must face full force of law

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This morning a shooting in Newry is brought to our attention by the BBC.

As with many other people, we in the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats abhor the violence that is still being visited on the people of Northern Ireland.

I hope that the man who was attacked in the Parkhead Crescent area of the city and suffered injury to his stomach and knee will make a full recovery.

The staff of Northern Ireland’s health service so often have to look after those affected by such mindless violence. I know we all will thank them.

I call on anyone with any information about this and all other attacks to contact the PSNI as soon as possible and help them to rid the streets of the criminal or criminals behind this cruel attack. Those who persist in such violence must feel the full force of the law on them.

Supreme Court dismisses Edwin Poots appeal on unmarried and same-sex couples adopting

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Today the Supreme Court of the UK has ruled that the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had not meet the court’s criteria for an appeal and dismissed their case on the matter of same-sex and unmarried couples adopting.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said:

“The Supreme Court issued an order on 22 October 2013 stating that the application did not satisfy the criteria of raising an arguable point of law of general public importance.”

In June  the Court of Appeal backed up the previous High Court ruling that the ban on unmarried and same-sex couple adopting was unlawful. But not satisfied Health Minister Edwin Poots said he would take his appeal to the next stage. Today that next stage the Supreme Court has spoken and just over a year after the first court decision he is left without any further ground to appeal.

Speaking on the decision LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Coordinator Stephen Glenn said:

“Thankfully the Supreme Court have come to a rapid dismissal of this latest appeal which was surely only launched in the interests of primarily hindering LGBT equality and not in the interest of children who need families.

“However, it has taken over a year of legal proceedings for Edwin Poots to finally run out of legal avenues to pursue at a great cost to the public purse. This should be a lesson to him to stop spending public money on continuous appeals to attempt to block LGBT equality moving forward in Northern Ireland. Though these is now also an appeal pending on the blood ban and there is still a differential viewpoint on same-sex marriage to the rest of the UK.

“We await and see how much longer it will be before the Health Minister makes a move to actually resolve this issue but we trust that the suitable provision will be made in the Adoption and Children Bill to be introduced next year.”

High Court ruling on blood ban welcome

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Today in the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice Traecy ruled that Health Minister Edwin Poots continuation of the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) was “irrational”. He also ruled that the Minster had broken the ministerial code in coming to his conclusion.

Speaking about the decision LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Ireland co-ordinator Stephen Glenn said:

“The Liberal Democrats across the UK have long been campaigning for a science based approach to blood donation, not one based on fear at the initial outbreak of HIV in the 80s. The party is also campaigning for a policy that is based on sexual practice rather that tarring of an entire sexual orientation even in light of the 12 month referral period.

 

“This decision should pave the way for bi-sexual men who are in long term heterosexual relationships, men who experimented with men in their distant pass or long term celibate gay men to be able to give blood based on the safe practices of their current lifestyle.

 

“The decision today from Mr Justice Traecy shows that the decision made by the Health Minister was not based on science provided by The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) or any other agency but on personally held beliefs. Such a basis for policy making has made Northern Ireland isolated in the UK and appear backward.

 

“I hope that Mr Poots will accept this decision from the court and take the approach he followed when the High Court ruled against him on the case of same-sex couples adopting. We cannot afford for the Minister to take another appeal to the Supreme Court because he has not got a legal ruling he agrees with.”

Concern about the future of Causeway Hospital

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Causeway Hospital - geograph.org.uk - 1154840
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats have received expressions of concern from a number of stakeholder parties at uncertainties over the future of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, currently under review by the Department of Health at Stormont as an aspect of the Transforming Your Care programme.

The difficulties at Causeway are acknowledged by all, and constitute a major impediment to the delivery of healthcare to North Antrim and the North Coast. These stem principally from an inability to recruit and retain senior Medical and Surgical professionals at Causeway, especially in the areas of Emergency Medicine and Maternity.

Causeway Hospital currently operates within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and as such, it shares many services, including the services of many Consultants and an entire spectrum of less-visible activities such as nursing, supply, Biomedical Science services, etc with other institutions of the Northern HSC Trust including Antrim Hospital. One possible “solution” mooted for the senior staffing difficulties is the transfer of Causeway from the Northern HSC Trust to the Western HSC Trust. The principal motivation being suggested for such change is the potential for new multi-centre working arrangements between Causeway and Altnagelvin Hospitals.

We are seriously concerned that such a proposal does not adequately acknowledge the existing multicentre arrangements from which Causeway benefits in the Northern Trust. Many of these arrangements have been put in place at considerable cost in recent years following the merger of the former United Hospitals, Homefirst and Causeway Trusts.

It should be pointed out also that within the current fourfive-Trust [thanks @Alanlaw] structure in Northern Ireland, community and acute services reside within the same Trusts. Thus, any transfer of Causeway would have to be accompanied by a transfer of community medical, mental health and social care provision in North Antrim and on the North Coast. We suggest that this depth of change to healthcare in the Causeway area is an unnecessarily disruptive answer to the difficulties at hand.

Again, we do not seek to deny the seriousness of the shortfalls at Causeway, or the difficulties faced by the Department of Health in trying to put them right. We acknowledge that provision here has been overly territorial and insufficiently collaborative as many within healthcare in Northern Ireland will admit. However, that surely points to a possible alternative pathway — The further development of Causeway Hospital need not be a zero-sum process. — Even at a time of comparative scarcity in the NHS, we feel that there is potential within both Trusts for the Department to find, even perhaps to pioneer, better networking arrangements which enable Causeway’s existing strengths and relationships to continue as new capabilities are created for the benefit of all in North Antrim and on the North Coast.

New Standards of Care for People Living with HIV must apply in Northern Ireland as much as England – Michael Carchrie Campbell, HIV Blogger

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With the news that the British HIV Association has published its new Standards of Care for People Living with HIV 2013, which set out to secure high quality care for people with HIV in the UK, at a time when patient numbers are rising and the NHS changes the way HIV treatment and prevention services will be commissioned and provided.

I am hoping that this will assist all interested in our care here in Northern Ireland to work for improvement of the service. I notice that The Rainbow Project – I hope that it is TRP in Northern Ireland – replied to the consultation that went towards the final document, I trust that Positive Life will work in the future with BHIVA to ensure that the thoughts of its clients and support workers are shown to the rest of the UK.

I have not seen any actual reference to Northern Ireland in the document, there is plenty about England, and some references to Scotland – but the document says the

set of quality standards [are] for the care of people with HIV in the UK.

All too often organisations in England say ‘national’ and mean England and refer to the UK and also mean England – or at best Great Britain. Even if the Standards of Care are not specifically tied into local commissioning and local health plans I am sure that they can be acknowledged and worked towards nonetheless.

I hope that the local Department of Health, the Health Committee up at the Northern Ireland Assembly and especially the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA will take time to read the document. It is available from BHIVA or by clicking on the document’s cover page to the right.

People diagnosed late have a tenfold increased risk of death in the first year after they are diagnosed when compared to those diagnosed with earlier stages of infection according to the Health Protection Agency. Late diagnosis also increases the risk of HIV related ill-health, of HIV being acquired by others, and significantly increases the costs of treatment.

Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of BHIVA said:

2011 saw the highest ever rate of new HIV diagnoses among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), a worrying trend that has seen a steady increase since 2007. But HIV is not limited to MSM. New diagnoses of HIV in heterosexuals where the infection was probably acquired in the UK is around 50%, almost double 2002 levels.

The high rate of HIV infection amongst heterosexuals, as well as the persistent trend of late diagnosis is particularly worrying.  Many people are simply not being signposted to take an HIV test.  With a general lack of routine HIV testing being commissioned for general medical admissions and in the general practice setting this is not altogether surprising.  We need a greater emphasis on HIV testing and on all aspects of prevention.

With successful treatment, a person with HIV in the UK can expect a near-normal lifespan. But for that to happen, early diagnosis is vital. Too many people only get tested when their HIV infection is already at an advanced stage, compromising both their own health and that of their partners. 

People with HIV are at risk of ‘falling through the gap’ as the bodies responsible for HIV commissioning and prevention in the new NHS systems find their feet.

BHIVA has published these standards in part to ensure that service providers and commissioners are informed about the treatment people with HIV should expect to access.

With this in mind, we have set out a clear description of what constitutes good care for people with HIV, matching the Standards of Care to the NHS outcomes framework. 

The new Standards also reflect the growing number of people with HIV who have significant social care needs which can impact upon patients’ clinical care and compromise their well-being.

People with HIV should to be at the heart of treatment and care, and be fully involved in decisions about their care both at an individual level and at structural and policy levels.

 Article originally posted on HIV Blogger: living positively

Getting to Zero on World AIDS Day – Michael Carchrie Campbell

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Michael Carchrie Campbell, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats has supported The HIV Support Centre‘s Getting to Zero campaign as part of the World AIDS Campaign on World AIDS Day.

I know that it is vital for everyone in Northern Ireland to be educated about HIV. It is a virus that affects us all here. With the figures released today by the Public Health Agency showing a 20% increase on diagnoses it is clear that the health minister and health department need to do more to ensure that we get to Zero New Diagnoses.

Those of us who are living in Northern Ireland with HIV have a strong support from The HIV Support Centre. I can truly say that without the support that I have received there, I would not be here today. Please support them and wear a red ribbon today.

Rob Anderson, Chairman of The HIV Support Centre said:

“Please show your support by wearing a Red Ribbon and get tested and get tested early. What’s 60 seconds out of your day? It could save your life and that of those you love.”

I ask that everyone considers his advice and follows it. Doing so will help us Get to Zero.

The HIV Support Centre can be contacted on 028 9024 9268 or by visiting their website http://www.thehivsupportcentre.org.uk/

Another policy, another delay: Poots does it again

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Edwin Poots with Scottish Health Minister

Edwin Poots MLA together with the Scottish Health Minister. Maybe she can make him see some sense. Image by DUP Photos via Flickr

Once again it seems that Northern Ireland is going to be left behind by a Minister who has delayed policies in the past in another department.

Today Edwin Poots MLA, our Health Minister informed the Health Committee in the Assembly that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was not going to be lifted, unlike what is happening in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is clear that the Minister is not really taking the same advice as his counterparts across the water. A number of organisations and political parties have been making comments.

Are we expected to be self-sufficient with our own blood supply?

This is a fair point made by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project, if Northern Ireland is excluding donations, are we able to accept blood from the rest of the UK? I am not sure that we currently do accept blood from there – but surely it would possibly extend to donations of other organs.

The HIV Support Centre‘s new Director, Danny McQuillan response highlighted the need for focusing on the sexual behaviour of all blood donors. He also suggested that the continuance of this policy would discriminate and stigmatise people based on their sexual orientation:

We urge the Minister to re-think this decision and adopt a policy that will protect pubilc safety, a policy focusing on excluding those who engage in high-risk and unsafe sexual behaviour, not a policy that discriminates and stigmatises people based on their sexual orientation.

said Danny McQuillan, Director of The HIV Support Centre.

I really believe that it is time for Northern Ireland to ‘grow up’. Gay men are not the only ones that take part in high-risk sexual behaviour. How many other people are having unsafe sex regularly? It is likely that there are many, yet they are not banned for life. We need to look at this and get it sorted out.