Home > Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Debate. North-South Co-operation on Health and EU Directive on Patients' Rights: Department of Health.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Debate. North-South Co-operation on Health and EU Directive on Patients' Rights: Department of Health. (06 Feb 2014)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_...

Chairman: I welcome from the Department of Health Ms Bairbre Nic Aongusa, assistant secretary; Mr. Paul Barron, assistant secretary; Ms Audrey Hagerty, principal officer; Mr. Charlie Hardy, principal officer; Mr. Tom Monks, assistant principal officer; Ms Louise Kenny, assistant principal officer; Mr. Keith Comiskey, assistant principal officer; and Ms Helen O'Brien, higher executive officer. I look forward to our discourse on the development of North-South co-operation in the health care sector, which affects many people and how the EU director on patient mobility will impact on how patients access services in the future… 

The committee would like to explore new opportunities and would like the meeting to be as engaging as possible. We are not here to scrutinise ongoing work. We are interested in what opportunities exist in proper North-South health care provision, which are practical, pragmatic and sensible and which follow common-sense protocols. I call Ms Nic Aongusa to make her presentation.
..…Ms Bairbre Nic Aongusa.... 

On alcohol and tobacco, the promotion of health and well-being is very important for all our citizens. There is important and ongoing co-operation between the two jurisdictions on health promotion issues including that of alcohol, which is one of very serious concern. The North-South alcohol policy advisory group, supported by the Institute of Public Health, was set up to undertake work on the issues relating to alcohol availability. This work contemplates examining product, price, promotion, and place, as well as hidden harm, which includes the need to support children with substance-misusing parents or carers. Last October, the Government approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse to be incorporated in a public health (alcohol) Bill. Work is progressing on the development of this legislation which will provide, inter alia, for a minimum unit price in respect of alcohol. This is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels per gramme of alcohol that must be legally observed by retailers in both the on and off-trade sectors.

Concrete steps are being taken jointly with Northern Ireland to prepare for the development and implementation of policy on minimum unit pricing. A health impact assessment, HIA, has been commissioned in conjunction with our counterparts in Northern Ireland as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The assessment will study the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic effects. It is expected that the findings from the HIA will be available by the end of quarter 2 of this year. Minimum unit pricing is key to reducing the harm of alcohol in adolescents and problem drinkers. Collaboration with our colleagues in Northern Ireland on the HIA sets a good example of progress which we can make together in tackling the issue of alcohol abuse. The Minister for Health and his Northern Ireland counterpart are in agreement on the need to act simultaneously to allay concerns regarding negative impacts on cross-Border shopping.

An inaugural North-South tobacco conference was held in Belfast in November last. It provided a platform for speakers, both local and international, to share their experiences and expertise in respect of tobacco control research and policy. Good progress has also been made in respect of standardised packaging and the general scheme of the relevant Bill has been published and has been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. The joint committee called for submissions on the general scheme and the first in its series of public hearings on the matter was held on 23 January. I understand the committee is discussing this matter again today.

There has been significant co-operation between the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland and the National Office for Suicide Prevention, NOSP, in respect of suicide prevention measures and the implementation of the all-island action plan is ongoing. Particular actions arising from this approach have included understanding risk issues - particularly for young men - the roll-out of applied suicide intervention skills training, ASIST, and the sharing of training resources. As part of its programme of work over the next three years and in partnership with the Department of Health and the health authorities in Northern Ireland, the NOSP will further develop and implement the all-island action plan, focused on knowledge transfer, sharing of resources and information on programmes that are exemplars of good practice. Suicide is a complex issue and there is no single or easy interventions that will guarantee success. However, by promoting cross-organisation collaboration and the development of networks and partnerships we can maximise the impact of our suicide prevention initiatives.

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