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Northern Ireland reforms ‘need stronger AHP input’

The CSP Northern Ireland is asking for stronger allied health professional representation at strategic levels in the country’s health service.

The Society’s call came in response to the NI assembly’s proposed new health and social care reform legislation and was part of a presentation by the NI Allied Health Professions Federation.

Tom Sullivan, CSP NI policy officer, said the Society intended to influence ‘the biggest change to health service structure in Northern Ireland in a generation’.

The proposals include replacing the four regional health boards with one strategic regional authority, as well as introducing a regional agency for public health and well-being, and local commissioning groups with local government representation.

Mr Sullivan said one strategic health authority was to be welcomed and he also looked forward to a more ‘bottom-up’ approach to commissioning, as well as broader emphasis on public health.

However, the CSP expressed concern that AHPs could be overlooked. CSP chair of Council and AHPF representative Liz Cavan told Frontline: ‘We are unhappy with the AHP representation in the proposals, but felt we were able to give good input on how physiotherapists add value to patient care.

‘We are looking at AHP representation at every level, starting with the Department [of Health, Social Services and Public Health], regional, trust and commissioning levels,’ she added. ‘We are trying to ensure it is not only medicine, nursing and social services that are represented but also AHPs.’

The briefing criticised the lack of support structures for AHPs within the department and called for at least one AHP seat on the new local commissioning groups. Ms Cavan was also concerned that restructuring at trust level had  resulted in directors of services managing a range of professions, rather than therapy managers.

The government plans to have the new agencies in place by April 2009.

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