Session: 2011/2012

Date: 12 November 2012

ISBN: Only available online

Committee: Health, Social Services and Public Safety

The Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Order 48.

The Committee has power to:

  • Consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • Consider relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of primary legislation;
  • Call for persons and papers;
  • Initiate inquires and make reports; and
  • Consider and advise on any matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5.

Democratic Unionist Party

Ms Paula Bradley

 

Ms Pam Brown

 

Mr Gordon Dunne

 

Mr Jim Wells (Deputy Chairperson)

Alliance Party

Mr Kieran McCarthy

Sinn Fein 4

Mr Mickey Brady

 

Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson) 1,2

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr Conall McDevitt 3

Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Sam Gardiner

 

Mr John McCallister


1 With effect from 23 January 2012 Ms Sue Ramsey replaced Ms Michaela Boyle.

2 With effect from 6 February 2012 Ms Sue Ramsey replaced Ms Michelle Gildernew as Chairperson of the Committee.

3 With effect from 23 April 2012 Mr Conall McDevitt replaced Mr Mark H Durkan. 

4 With effect from 1 July 2012 Ms Michelle Gildernew resigned as member of the Committee.

Meetings

Between May 2011 and August 2012 the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety held 43 meetings.

Three of these meetings were held outside Parliament Buildings:

  • A meeting was held at the Western Health and Social Care Trust Headquarters as part of the Committee’s visit to the Cancer Ward in Altnagelvin Hospital;
  • A meeting was held in the Peninsula Healthy Living Centre, Kircubbin; and
  • A meeting was held in Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry as part of the Committee’s visit to the Hospital.

In addition to the above the Committee has visited:

  • The NI Ambulance Control Centre
  • Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Ash House Women’s Prison
  • The Royal Hospital A&E Department and Maternity Unit
  • Royal Hospital for Sick Children
  • Craigavon Area Hospital A&E Department
  • Ulster Hospital A&E Unit and Maternity Unit
  • Oireachtas, Dublin

Committee members with members of the Joint Committee for Health & Children, Dublin.

Committee members with members of the Joint Committee for Health & Children, Dublin

The Committee went into closed session during three of its meetings when it was considering legal advice on various matters.

Primary Legislation

The Committee carried out pre-introductory scrutiny of the Mental Capacity (Health, Welfare and Finance) Bill and took evidence from the Department, the Children’s Law Centre and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.

The Committee also undertook pre-introductory scrutiny of the Adoption and Children Bill and has received evidence from the Department and Kinship Care NI.

Subordinate legislation

The Committee considered 49 pieces of subordinate legislation and approved 37 Statutory Rules, two Statutory Instruments and two Commencement Orders.

The Committee undertook detailed scrutiny of the Mental Health (Private Hospitals) Regulations. The purpose of the Rule was to enable private hospitals to treat patients detained under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986. The Committee took evidence from the Children’s Law Centre and Royal College of Psychiatrists who highlighted a number of concerns with the proposals. As a result, the Committee agreed to ask that the Department undertake a public consultation on the proposed regulations before proceeding further. When the consultation was completed, the Committee took further evidence from the Department before approving the Rule.

Budget Scrutiny

The Committee held 11 evidence session on budgetary matters and covered issues including the Departmental bids made under the monitoring rounds, the options for managing budgetary pressures in 2011/2012, and the allocation of monies across the Department’s various functions. It also held a session which analysed the spend on mental health services in order to complement the pre-introductory scrutiny of the Mental Capacity (Health, Welfare and Finance) Bill. Similarly, it took evidence on the acute services budget in parallel with examining A&E waiting times.

The Committee decided in June 2012 to carry out a review on budget scrutiny. The purpose of the review is to identify effective approaches to the scrutiny of public finance which could be applied to the Committee’s scrutiny of the Department’s budget.

Committee members visiting Craigavon Area Hospital

Committee members visiting Craigavon Area Hospital

Policy Scrutiny

In February 2012 the Committee raised the issue of Community Meals provision with the Department. During its scrutiny the Committee discovered that a departmental circular in relation to charging for meals was not being applied uniformly across all Trust areas. As a result of the Committee’s work the departmental circular was enforced, and the relevant Trusts brought their charges into line with the circular by May 2012.

In June 2011 the Committee became aware that there were concerns about the processes by which pregnant women are informed about and screened for Group B Streptococcus. The Committee invited academics and medical professionals in the field to give evidence, as well as hearing first hand from parents who had lost a baby through Group B Streptococcus. As a result of the Committee’s work, the Department substantially increased its focus on this topic and undertook a range of measures including establishing a Group B Strep steering group in Northern Ireland, issuing guidance to health professionals, asking the Public Health Agency to undertake awareness raising, updating patient information leaflets, issuing Group B Strep reminder stickers in hospitals, updating the Group B Strep section of the revised 'Pregnancy Book, and organising a joint RCOG/Royal College of Midwives conference for February 2012.

Performance Scrutiny

Between January and June 2012 the Committee focused attention on the pseudomonas outbreaks in the neo-natal units. The Committee took evidence from the Department at an early stage to ascertain what steps were being taken to control the outbreak. The Committee also heard from Professor Pat Troop who produced two independent reports for the Minister on the matter, in April and May. The Committee will continue to monitor the implementation of her recommendations in 2012/2013.

During 2012, the Committee became aware of significant increases in Accident and Emergency waiting times at various hospitals. The Committee visited three Emergency Departments (Royal Victoria hospital, Craigavon hospital, Ulster hospital) and spoke directly to staff about the approaches they were taking to try and improve patient flow through the A&E and thereby reduce waiting times. The Committee also took evidence from the A&E Improvement Action Group which has been tasked by the Minister with addressing the issue. The Committee will continue to engage with the Group in 2012/2013.

The Committee took evidence from the Department and the Health and Social Care Board at regular intervals during the year on the consultation, publication and implementation plans for Transforming Your Care (TYC). The Committee also heard from the BMA, the Royal Colleges of GPs, and the Allied Health Professionals on some of the opportunities and challenges in relation to implementing TYC.

Engagement - Informal meetings

The Committee has sought to find ways to allow more groups, who would otherwise not get the opportunity to meet the Committee, to put forward their views. A total of seven informal meetings have been held with 43 groups.  

Committee motions

The Committee brought forward three motions. These dealt with the issues of:

  • GP Surgeries using '0844' telephone numbers and the associated high call charges for patients.
  • The provision of IVF services in Northern Ireland.
  • The prevention of fractures resulting from osteoporosis in older people.

Key priorities of the next session

The key priorities for the next session will be:

  • A review on health inequalities with the aim of providing input to the Department’s draft Public Health Strategy.
  • A review on budget scrutiny.
  • Pre-introductory scrutiny of the Mental (Health, Welfare and Finance) Bill.
  • The implementation of Transforming Your Care.

 Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Expenditure for the period 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

Includes the cost of committee visits to:

  • Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry
  • Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry
  • Kircubbin Healthy Living Centre
  • Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Ash House Women’s Prison
  • Ulster Hospital A&E Department and Maternity Unit
  • Royal Hospital A&E Department
  • Royal Hospital Neo-Natal Unit and Maternity Hospital
  • The NI Ambulance Service Headquarters
  • Leinster House, Dublin

and 3 meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

£2,167.12

Printing of committee reports

 

£ 0.00

Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to committee inquiries, the committee stage of Bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

 

£ 0.00

Consultancy support - the cost of specialist advisers appointed by the committee and commissioned research, also the cost of drafting Standing Orders

 

£ 0.00

General expenses

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire, witness expenses, gifts provided by the committee during visits and conference fees for members.

£2,278.05

Total Expenditure

£4,445.17

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