Ulster Unionist Party elected representatives Roy Beggs MLA and Councillor Andrew Wilson have called out at Greenisland FC to check up on site to see the progress of the 3G pitch, which is eagerly anticipated by all those associated with the Football Club.
In a joint statement, Roy Beggs & Andrew Wilson said “We first became involved in the lobby campaign for the 3G pitch in 2014 and have engaged proactively with Council to push for Local Government investment to add to the significant Sports NI investment which was drawn down by the Football Club. A number of years later, it is great to see the turf being moved in preparation for the 3G pitch installation in addition to the floodlights. Greenisland Football Club is a successful, local club and it is great to see them go from strength to strength and the players are a tribute to the 70 coaches associated with the Club.”
East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman Roy Beggs has welcomed work carried out by Transport NI to renew the Zebra crossing at the busy St Brides Street junction in Carrickfergus.
Roy Beggs MLA said “I had contacted Transport NI a number of weeks ago to ask for the work to be carried out as the Zebra crossing was very faint and there was concern that vehicles may not see the crossing markings until it was too late. It is welcome news that Transport NI have carried out the required work at the crossing which will improve road safety for vehicles and pedestrians in the area.”
The Department of Health does not know how many overseas staff work in Northern Ireland’s NHS.
The News Letter can reveal that whilst the English NHS has detailed data on the national backgrounds of virtually all its workers, with just six months to go until Brexit, the Province’s health authorities not been able to provide any such figures.
The UK’s exit from the EU will spell the end of automatic free movement of EU workers into the UK and may herald a tightening of immigration restrictions more generally – something some people have worried could affect a stretched NHS which relies in part on foreign-born personnel.
UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs said any failure to monitor staff details and trends properly would be “negligent”, “incredible”, and “shocking”.
The News Letter had asked the Department of Health how many foreign (that is, non UK or Ireland) staff were employed in Northern Ireland’s NHS and where they came from ,but it responded simply: “Information not held.”
Asked why it was not recorded, and how the department could plan for things like Brexit without knowing such information, it said: “Due to the free movement of workers from EU member states under the single market arrangements, health and social care employers historically have not asked applicants for their nationality…
“This has indeed impacted upon our planning for EU exit scenarios, and health and social care employers are working to establish the necessary information from their payroll information where possible.”
It suggested the News Letter go to the level of individual health trusts to find out more details about overseas staff.
The paper then asked the biggest one, the Belfast trust – but it has no idea either.
For example, in 2018 it said there were about 25,000 trust staff in total. Just over 7,000 gave their nationalities as British, Northern Irish, or Irish.
About 250 staff were listed as “other” – a category that covers Poles, Lithuanians, Indians and Filipinos and more.
But almost 16,200 workers was listed as “not known”.
Asked why it does not know the national backgrounds of the overwhelming bulk of its workforce, the trust said “although the Belfast Trust request that staff complete this information as part of Equal Opportunities Monitoring, it is not mandatory for staff to complete information regarding nationality categories”.
In addition, the News Letter asked the Department of Finance – ultimately in charge of public spending in the Province – if it has figures on the nationality of NHS employees.
It referred the News Letter to figures from the last census, which are seven years old, and do not answer the question anyway.
By contrast, the News Letter was able to obtain relatively-complete figures for the number of overseas staff working in the English NHS in 2018.
Out of about 1,204,000 staff, it recorded the backgrounds of 1,133,000 (though it stresses that it the information is self-declared, and may only reflect people’s cultural heritage, not nationality).
Over 988,000 gave their nationality as UK, about 63,000 named an EU country, and about 81,000 named a country somewhere else in the world.
Only 71,000 were unknown.
Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs, MLA for East Antrim, said: “It is clear that the NHS in England monitors very closely where it’s staff come from and even the nationality of staff who are leaving.
“I would have thought that monitoring country-of-origin employment trends would have been a vital component of our local NHS workforce planning. It would be shocking if the Department of Health and our local Health and Social Care Trusts do not do likewise…
“This information will be vital for effective workforce planning and to ensuring essential that NHS staff will be available to meet demands.”
He said failing to monitor staff trends would be “incredible, and indeed negligent”, adding: “This flaw in workforce planning needs to be quickly corrected.”
The Department of Health said: “The absence of centrally-held information does not preclude workforce planning… We do use a range of proxy data to assist with workforce planning, for example, flow rates of medical students to and from Great Britain, as well as professional registration data from the likes of the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.”
It adds that its “workforce strategy… also recognises that there is a need to further improve our business intelligence in terms of data”.
Roy Beggs MLA, who was part of the cross party group of MLAs who had recognised the potential benefits of the medicinal use of cannabis products, has welcomed the amendment to the 2001 Misuse of Drugs Act and the changes indicated by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland that are to enable clinicians to prescribe the medicinal use of cannabis.
Roy Beggs MLA said:
“I am pleased that Northern Ireland clinicians will, from the 1st of November, be able to consider prescribing medicinal cannabis. We must however recognise that as there is limited experience in this area that clinicians must be cautious in prescribing its use. Like any drug, there are side effects and clinicians will want to minimise the risk of harm to patients.
“The Home Office, by amending the 2001 Misuse of Drugs Legislation, has enabled some cannabis based products to be considered for use in the NHS. Some medicinal cannabis products have proven to be effective in controlling some patients’ epileptic seizures. Indeed, in the case of Billy Caldwell, the re-introduction of his medications, which had been originally prescribed in Canada, could be said to have been life-saving. I am pleased that the NI Department of Health has indicated that they will mirror the changes that are to occur in England, Scotland and Wales.
“I would like to thank Charlotte Caldwell for showing to us all the benefits of this medication to her son Billy, and for co-ordinating the cross party group of local politicians who lobbied the Department of Health and the Trusts, supporting the use of medicinal cannabis in NI. As a result other patients may be able to benefit from the 1st of November.”
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