Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland - implementing the Mental Health Action Plan, responding to COVID-19 and the priorities for a mental health strategy

Morning, Wednesday, 9th December 2020

Online Conference

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss the priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland.

Areas for discussion include:

  • implementing the Mental Health Action Plan including responding to COVID-19
  • delivering improved provision for children and young people
  • funding
  • service delivery improvement priorities for the development of a mental health strategy

Why this is particularly relevant now - the context for discussion:

The Mental Health Action Plan

Recently launched with a commitment to produce a 10-year mental health strategy as well as:

  • creation of managed care networks - and improving pathways, transitions, and primary and emergency care
  • proposals for an Innovation Fund for local initiatives
  • actions to improve the governance structure
  • increases to the workforce and supporting them with new ways of working
  • implementation of the inter-departmental plan in response to the Still Waiting review rom the Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • developing a 10-year funding plan
  • gaining a better understanding of the system and available services and enhance user involvement

The new Mental Health Champion

  • the appointment of Professor Siobhan O’Neill, who is a keynote speaker at the seminar

A COVID-19 mental health response plan

Published as part of the Mental Health Action Plan:

  • coordinating a resilient response, promoting wellbeing through public health messaging, and provision of advice in light of social distancing measures
  • interventions that are evidence-based with specific actions for child and adolescent mental health services
  • contingencies for dealing with pressures on mental health services before COVID-19, and responding to expected surges and developing recovery plans

Reports and research

  • Findings that Northern Ireland lacks an up to date strategy and mental health services require increased investment, by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in their health funding report
  • The Department of Health’s health and wellbeing report to 2026 to transform health services in Northern Ireland placing an emphasis on developing systems and person-centred care

Key areas for discussion:

The- Mental Health Action Plan

Discussing implementation, including:

  • opportunities for driving forward mental health provision improvements following the launch of a Mental Health Action Plan
  • the role of the new mental health champion in raising awareness and being an advocate for mental health.

Responding to mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19

How service delivery has been impacted by the pandemic and ways that it has had to adapt, as well as priorities for recovery, and key learnings for the development of a mental health strategy, including:

  • innovative support methods that have been developed and adopted, delivering mental health support remotely, and utilising data to make informed decisions and plans
  • coping with increased demand and preparing for expected peaks - and how this has impacted workforce pressures
  • supporting the mental health workforce deliver care through the pandemic - and providing mental health support to the wider health workforce
  • dealing with the long term effects on mental health and service provision, identifying need and supporting vulnerable groups, and effective public health messaging around mental wellbeing

Improving children and young people’s mental health provision

Implementation of the inter-departmental plan in response to the Still Waiting review which has set out recommendations, looking at:

  • supporting carers and adults working with children
  • provision for children and young people with learning disabilities and additional needs
  • developing specialist support and flexible treatment options
  • enabling children to access help and provide mental health awareness
  • improving the transition from child to adult services

The pandemic

  • its impact on children’s mental health
  • strategies for supporting children through the disruption of school closures and managing the potential long term effects
  • adaptation of services and preparing for surges in child mental health cases

Developing a mental health strategy

  • funding - priorities in mental health and the development of a 10-year funding plan
  • the mental health workforce - with the Mental Health Action Plan including a review if funding allows, delegates will discuss:
    • increasing and adapting the mental health workforce to new methods of working
    • priorities for recruitment
    • the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce
    • supporting the workforce to use technology effectively
  • developing systems and person-centred care - with the emphasis on this in the Department of Health’s health and wellbeing report to 2026, delegates will assess:
    • how to support primary care practitioners to deliver these improvements for mental health
    • the ways that the mental health strategy can work to build on the thinking and work being carried out around this already
  • engagement with patients:
    • their role in the development of the mental health strategy to ensure that services are user friendly and informed by service users to make it effective
    • making mental health support as accessible as possible
  • innovation:
    • priorities for the proposed innovation fund for local mental health initiatives
    • the role of community, third sector and voluntary groups in mental health support
    • ways that innovative methods stemming for the work of these groups can be supported and encouraged through the development of a fund
  • a specialist community perinatal mental health service - with its development being a key ambition, delegates will discuss:
    • priorities and practicalities for developing this specialist service
    • how to realise the wider benefits it can also have in improving children’s health

The agenda:

  • Driving forward mental health provision improvements, raising awareness, and implementation of the Mental Health Action Plan
  • Responding to mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic - service delivery, innovative support methods, coping with increased demand and supporting the workforce
  • Delivering improved mental health provision for children and young people and managing the impact of COVID-19
  • Dealing with the long term effects of COVID-19, identifying need, supporting vulnerable groups and effective public health messaging
  • Priorities for funding, improving decision-making and commissioning
  • Increasing and adapting the mental health workforce to new methods of working
  • Key service improvements, priorities and community and patient engagement opportunities for the development of a mental health strategy

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of the NI Assembly, senior executive officials and regulators involved in this area of public policy, together with senior leaders from HSC trusts, local authorities, representatives from the Royal Colleges and other professional bodies and trade unions, health charities and third sector, pharmaceutical companies, housing associations, patient advocacy groups and charities, consultancies and academics, commentators, legal and financial specialists, as well as reporters from the specialist, NI and national media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Interim Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, and Professor of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University

David Babington

Chief Executive, Action Mental Health

Jennie Lee Sims

Mental Health Network Lead, RCN Northern Ireland


Órlaithí Flynn MLA

Member, Committee for Health, Northern Ireland Assembly

Pam Cameron MLA

Deputy Chair, Committee for Health, Northern Ireland Assembly


Dr Laurence Dorman

Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners NI

Dr Richard Wilson

Chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists Northern Ireland

Clare-Anne Magee

Head, Carers Northern Ireland

James A. Maxwell

Principal, Carrickfergus Grammar School

Dr Julie-Ann Maney

Consultant, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and Standards for Children and Young People in Emergency Care Settings Representative, RCPCH Ireland Committee

Dr Ursula Mason

Chair, South Belfast Federation; GP, Carryduff Surgery; and Vice-Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland

Dr Julie Anderson

Consultant Psychiatrist, Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Chair, Perinatal Specialty Committee, RCPsych NI; and Regional Representative, Perinatal Faculty, RCPsych UK

Dr Michael McMorran

Senior Psychiatry Trainee