Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Campaigns and Policies

stormont policy page

Every aspect of NICHS work is affected by the work and policy of Government. The health and social care of everyone in Northern Ireland is hugely influenced by the policy decisions and spending priorities of Government – at Stormont, Westminster and beyond.

It is important, therefore, that NICHS seeks to understand and influence government policy on health promotion and disease prevention.

NICHS wants to influence not just how we spend the  health and social care budget in Northern Ireland but also other areas such as diet, activity levels and smoking which impact on obesity and health in general. NICHS lobbies across a wide range of government activity and spending beyond the spending and policies under the control of the Department of Health.

NICHS seeks to act as a voice for all those who wish to improve life for the people of Northern Ireland by preventing and alleviating chest, heart and stroke illnesses and by ensuring those who need treatment and help receive the best possible services.

Our Policies

Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke has a number of public health and other policies which form the backbone of the health promotion and prevention work that we do in the community and at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

We believe that the NI Executive and in particular the Department of Health should increase its focus and the level of resources it devotes to health promotion, protection and prevention.

Health inequalities are particularly marked in NI and in fact have widened in recent years. Past government targets have not been met so it is clear that current policies are not sufficient and new approaches and extra resources are needed.

Click here to find out more about:

Our policies relating to alcohol Our policies relating to obesity
Our policies relating to smoking Our policies relating to defibrillators
FH Screening campaign Long Term Conditions Alliance

Our Policies relating to Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol greater than the recommended allowance can have harmful effects on people’s health and well being. For instance, it can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, damage to the heart muscle and lead to other conditions such as stroke, and liver disease. The calorie content in alcohol is also high, which can lead to weight gain, an important point to consider when reviewing levels of obesity within the UK.

NICHS fully support the efforts of the government as they seek to combat the impact of alcohol consumption in the general population and we look forward to the implementation of such strategy in Northern Ireland. We fully support any developments that can help people make better decisions about drinking.

We also believe that based on empirical evidence, a Minimum Unit Price level should be set at 50p per unit of alcohol.

Our Policies relating to Obesity

Obesity in Northern Ireland

NI Health Survey 2014

  • A quarter of adults (24%) were obese with a further two-fifths (37%) classed as overweight.
  • Males (68%) were more likely than females (56%) to be overweight or obese.
  • The proportion of adults classed as overweight or obese has increased from the level reported in 1997 (57%) although it has remained at a relatively constant level since 2005/06.
  • Three-quarters of children aged 2-10 were classed as either normal weight or underweight, while 18% were classed as overweight and 7% were classed as obese. The proportion of children classified as either overweight or obese has not changed since 2005/06.

 

It is clear that there is an obesity problem and that as people age this is likely to turn into a ‘time-bomb’ by imposing more and more demands on the health and social care system. Extra weight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both of those conditions make heart disease or stroke more likely.

 

We believe in a concerted suite of measures is necessary to combat obesity. NICHS prioritises measures which can be introduced at a regional and local level while supporting a range of measures that need to be brought forward at and UK or even EU level.

This requires a focus on education, public sector provision of food and physical activity: NICHS calls on the NI Executive to act on the following policy areas:

  1. Ensuring that NI’s share of the sugar tax, possibly £18m, should be ‘ring-fenced’ to promote physical activity in schools and extend after school opportunities for children.
  2. Including in the next Programme for Government a target of ensuring that by 2021, 70% of primary schools will provide at least two hours of high quality PE each week to all of their pupils.
  3. Ensuring all schools are subject to School Food Standards and ensuring the effective implementation of the cooking and nutritional educations qualification into the curriculum.
  4. Adopting, implementing and monitoring the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) across the public sector in NI including the, local government, schools and health and social care
  5. Ensuring that accredited training in diet and health is routinely delivered to all of those who have opportunities to influence food choices in the catering, fitness and leisure sectors and others within local authorities.
  6. Continuing to raise awareness of concerns around sugar levels in the diet to the public as well as health professionals, employers, the food industry etc., encourage action to reduce intakes and provide practical steps to help people lower their own and their families’ sugar intake
  7. Committing to ambitious targets and sustained investment in active travel; this should be accompanied by guidance to relevant Executive Departments and local government on how to enable active travel at a local level.
  8. Committing to not merely protecting current public health spending but to significant, above inflation, increases as part of a transformation agenda.
  9. Examing the scope for giving greater powers for local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity
  10. Early intervention to offer help to families of children affected by obesity and further research into the most effective interventions.

Our Policies relating to Smoking

Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year. NICHS believes it is imperative, therefore, that government takes all reasonable measures possible which it believes may reduce the prevalence of smoking.

 

Smoking-in-cars-pageSmoking in Cars with Children

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke commissioned opinion polling in 2014 relating to smoking in cars when children are present. 82% agreed when asked whether they think that the NI Assembly should ban smoking in cars carrying children.

NICHS launched a campaign to urge the Health Minister to add an additional clause or clauses to the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (NI)

We were delighted when the Minister agreed to amend the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.  Smoking in cars with children is now banned in Northern Ireland in line with England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland

 

Standardised Packaging

We support the introduction of Standardised Packaging for cigarettes. There is considerable research suggesting ‘plain packs’ will make cigarettes less appealing to young potential smokers. We welcome the recent introduction of standardised packaging in Australia. When Westminster announced that it was moving towards plain packs, NICHS lobbied to ensure that Northern Ireland was not left behind.

Plain packaging has been introduced across the UK and will come fully into effect from April 2017.

 

E – cigarettes

We recognise that some smokers may choose to use e–cigarettes to help them cut down and/or quit.

E–cigarettes are certainly safer than using normal cigarettes. Are they 100% safe? We don’t know, which is why we need further research into their long–term effects. In the meantime if you are planning to quit smoking, especially if you have a lung condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, we recommend that you use the currently approved smoking cessation programmes, products and medicines. You may choose to use e–cigarettes too – that is your choice.

NICHS supported the NI Executive ban on the sale of e–cigarettes to under 18 year olds but we currently do not support a ban on the use of e–cigarettes in buildings and places where a ban on smoking is in operation

 

Smoking Cessation Services

We believe that smokers should be offered a comprehensive range of services to help them quit.

 

Illegal Cigarettes

We believe illegal cigarettes are undermining efforts both to persuade people to quit and the efforts to prevent people taking up smoking in the first place. We urge NI Executive and HMRC to increase the resources devoted to combating this issue.

 

Tobacco Tax Escalator

We strongly support the ‘escalator’ by which tobacco tax and increased every year ahead of inflation. There is strong evidence that this cuts the number of people smoking.

 

Tobacco Retailers Act (Northern Ireland) 2014

We supported this Act which creates a register of all tobacco retailers and introduces new sanctions for those found guilty of selling to children. We worked closely with the Assembly in support of amendments to strengthen the Act. The Act includes changes such as making “proxy buying” (buying cigarettes on behalf of a person under 18 years old) an offence.

 

If you would like more details on any of our policies please contact us 028 9032 0184 or mail@nichs.org.uk and ask for the Public Health Department.

Our Policy relating to Defibrillators

NICHS supports the provision of life–saving equipment in the community, but does not itself provide equipment.

However, NICHS does encourage sporting organisations to fundraise to buy equipment such as defibrillators, and we are able to suggest suppliers of the equipment and associated training services. NICHS also encourages clubs to set aside money for the initial and recurrent training of members of staff of the club in the use of the equipment. While individuals who have not been trained can still use the equipment on someone who has had a cardiac arrest, it is much more sensible to provide training initially and on a recurring basis.

If you would like to know more about how to fundraise for emergency aid equipment, or where you can obtain equipment and training, please contact mail@nichs.org.uk.

FH Screening Campaign

cholesterol-test-for-web

The success of Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke’s campaign to establish a screening service for Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) means that hundreds of lives will be changed and many lives saved across Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has become one of the first countries in the world to launch a service identifying families with a gene that causes sudden heart death.Around one in 500 people has Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH), an inherited condition that increases cholesterol levels from birth. Most people are unaware that they have it, but if left untreated around half of men affected will develop heart disease by age 50 and approximately 30% of women by age 60.

The project – run by the Public Health Agency – has been developed and funded in partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke and the Health and Social Care Board.

NICHS has been pressing for this development for some time and raised the subject at the All Party Group on Heart Disease and Stroke at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

We were very pleased that Mrs Frances Willey, whose family have been hugely affected by FH, was able to go to Stormont in November 2013, address the All Party Group, and argue in support of FH testing. The Assembly Members were very supportive and wrote to the Health Committee and the Minister, Edwin Poots, supporting our campaign.

We are delighted that the Health and Social Care Board and the Trusts agreed that a Familial Hypercholesterolemia service should be launched.Thanks to all our efforts, Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the UK in countering this condition.

Long Term Conditions Alliance

NI Chest Heart & Stroke is a member of the Long–Term Conditions Alliance (LTCANI). It is an umbrella body for voluntary and not–for–profit organizations, collectively representing around 500,000 people with long–term conditions in Northern Ireland.

Those affected need long–term support in minimizing the impact of their conditions and maximizing their independence and quality of life. They need timely and effective medical care, but they also need information and support in managing their conditions from day to day. They need to feel engaged with their own treatment, to feel responsible for their own health and to be able to make decisions for themselves.

People with long–term conditions know a lot about their own health and have a real contribution to make in shaping the services which support them. Their input can help the Health Service to target its scarce resources more effectively. They should have a real and important role in planning the services which are intended to meet their needs.

For more information visit www.ltcani.org.uk