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)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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

Morning, Wednesday, 24th March 2021

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

This conference focuses on priorities for improving mental health provision in Northern Ireland.

With recent publication of the Draft Mental Health Strategy 2021-31, it will be an opportunity to discuss key themes emerging from the consultation, and the way forward for development and implementation.

Delegates will also examine the implementation of the Mental Health Action Plan and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Northern Ireland - including the response so far, providing support as further restrictions are imposed, and the impact of the pandemic on meeting short-term actions and ambitions.

The discussion at a glance:

  • funding and effectiveness - priorities for resources to support the new strategy and whether the actions it outlines go far enough to create the change required to improve mental health provision
  • implementation - identifying immediate actions for setting a pathway  that enables delivery within the strategy’s 10-year timescale, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 on delivery
  • COVID-19 - its impact on mental health in NI, the response that has been required, and what can be learnt and innovations that can be taken forward to improve services into the future
  • service development - reducing variation, restructuring mental health systems around GPs, and opportunities for collaborative working including with the charity and voluntary sector
  • public health - strategies for prevention, mental health promotion, and raising awareness
  • children and young people - implementing improvements to their mental health provision

The agenda:

  • Taking forward improvements to mental health provision and key priorities for delivering the new strategy
  • Assessing the Draft Mental Health Strategy - funding priorities, delivery, mental health promotion, service transformation, and improving patient engagement, access and care
  • Supporting mental health and wellbeing through the pandemic - adapting service provision and the impact on delivery of improvements to provision
  • Children and young people - managing the impact of the pandemic, improving access to support and taking forward coordinated improvements to services
  • Growing the mental health workforce and delivering training and support
  • Advancing the role of the charity and voluntary sector in mental health support
  • Developing a digital health model for mental health and utilising lessons from the response to COVID-19
  • Implementing effective specialist services and patient-centred care, and reducing variation

Relevant background and developments:

  • the new Mental Health Champion - the appointment of Professor Siobhan O’Neill, who we are pleased is a keynote speaker at the seminar
  • the recently published Draft Mental Health Strategy 2021-31 - with 29 actions including mental health promotion with a year-on-year action plan focussing on prevention, alongside service delivery improvements to provide increased access and patient-centred care
  • the Mental Health Action Plan - published last year which included the development of a mental health strategy, a COVID-19 response plan, and actions on governance, workforce and care networks
  • further COVID-19 restrictions - as Northern Ireland enters another lockdown and schools are closed again
  • the Working Together To Promote Mental Wellbeing NI campaign - involving the charity and voluntary sector, the PHA, Health and Social Care Trusts, the NI Ambulance Service and the Health and Social Care Board
  • Interdepartmental Action Plan - published in response to the Still Waiting report, with measures on governance, funding, information collection and joined-up working
  • Health and Wellbeing 2026 - Delivering Together - wider transformation of health and social care in Northern Ireland which puts the patient and service user at the centre of the reconfiguration and development of new services and pathways

Key areas for discussion:

  • strategy implementation - priorities for the mental health funding plan, timescales and milestones, the impact of COVID-19 on delivery and prospects for the strategy creating the required change
  • Mental Health Action Plan delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic:
    • the impact of work has had to be pushed back and how can this inform delivery of the new strategy
    • assessing progress in meeting short-term priorities and actions related to the pandemic
  • prevention and raising awareness:
    • the inbox for the Mental Health Champion
    • further opportunities and developing ways of working across government departments
    • what is needed from the year-to-year health promotion plans and the way forward for collaborative public health campaigning
  • children’s mental health:
    • taking forward the Interdepartmental Action Plan including support for those working with children, developing specialist treatment, improving access to support, provision for children with additional needs, and the transition to adult services
    • managing the ongoing impact and potential long term effects of the pandemic and school closures on children’s mental health, and preparing for increased demand on services
  • the mental health workforce - priorities for training, recruitment and retention, learning from adapting working practices through the pandemic, supporting staff welfare and maximising the use of the community and voluntary sector expertise as suggested in the draft Strategy
  • restructuring the mental health system - assessing potential benefits and practicalities of services being centred around the GP, embedding psychological therapies, development of patient-centred approach, and approaches to reducing variation and improving patient access
  • digital mental health - how to bring forward the lessons from the pandemic in the development of a digital health model, and priorities for implementation to support access to self-help

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 both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as senior leaders from HSC trusts, local authorities, representatives from the Royal Colleges and other professional bodies and trade unions, health charities and the third sector, pharmaceutical companies, housing associations, patient advocacy groups, consultancies, academics, legal firms, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript 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

Professor Maurice Mulvenna

Professor of Computer Science, Ulster University

Dr Julie Anderson

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

Karen Collins

Chief Executive, AWARE


Órlaithí Flynn MLA

Member, Committee for Health, Northern Ireland Assembly


David Babington

Chief Executive, Action Mental Health

Dr Laurence Dorman

Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners NI

Dr Julie-Ann Maney

Senior Representative, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, RCPCH Ireland and Consultant, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children

Lindsay Robinson

Founder, Have you seen that girl?

Dr Hugh Nelson

Head of Community Wellbeing, Northern Health and Social Care Trust