That was the message from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Michael McBride, as he launched his eighth Annual Report today.
Dr McBride said that much work had been done in the last year to ensure that people in Northern Ireland received high quality, safe and effective health care though further work was needed.
He highlighted the Donaldson Report – “The Right Time, The Right Place” – published in January 2015 and said: “Donaldson has given a new voice to a number of problems which already existed in Northern Ireland. I share his view that in implementing the recommendations of the Report the leaders of the Northern Ireland health and social care system should be clear in their ambition of making Northern Ireland a world leader in quality and safety at the core of health and social care.
“Achieving this will require the commitment and support of everyone involved in the provision of health and social care and its oversight. Failure to act now is unacceptable; ‘not doing’ and ‘slow’ are not options in response to the transformation required.”
Referring to ‘Making Life Better’, the ten year strategic framework for public health, published in June 2014, Dr McBride said: “This is an important document which focuses on working collaboratively across government departments, in conjunction with community and voluntary sectors, individuals, partner organisations and within communities, setting the direction for policies and actions to improve the health and wellbeing for everyone and reduce inequalities.”
The CMO’s Report highlights a number of developments aimed at addressing some of the lifestyle choices that impact negatively on our health.
Dr McBride continued saying: “Excess alcohol consumption is an increasing problem in Northern Ireland. Harm caused by alcohol misuse is wide ranging, drinkers are at higher risk of liver disease, cancer, mental health problems and injury. By introducing Minimum Unit Pricing it has the potential to make a real difference. Although not a “cure all” the robust evidence base demonstrates that it will go some way in curbing excessive drinking in our population and reduce harm.
“Smoking levels are another challenge to improving health. The smoke free legislation introduced in 2007 has had a positive impact on health. The introduction of standardised packaging is another significant development which aims to prevent the uptake of smoking by children and young people. A worrying development however is the rising popularity of e-cigarettes particularly among young people and the risk that they will again normalise smoking.”
Regarding the safety of window blinds and reducing the risks to children Dr McBride said: “Preventing deaths and injuries from blinds cords remains a priority for me. I have been deeply affected by those who have tragically lost children in this way. I welcome and am reassured by the valuable work being undertaken by manufactures and others to raise awareness of blind cord safety and reduce the risk of accidents.”
The Report also covers a number of other important issues including mental health, new vaccination programmes, antibiotic resistance and Ebola. On Ebola Dr McBride said: “I would like to thank all the people who volunteered to go out and help in the affected countries especially health care staff from Northern Ireland. I would wish to acknowledge all the work, across the HSC that has gone into preparing for a possible imported case so that we might protect the public we all serve.”
A copy of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report and advice on many of the areas covered in the report can be found on: