Northern Ireland

Looking after Northern Ireland's health

Nurse Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The health service is tasked with the good health of Northern Ireland's population of 1.7m

The health and welfare of Northern Ireland's population of 1.7m is the responsibility of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Health Minister Edwin Poots

The current health minister is the DUP's Edwin Poots.

Image caption Edwin Poots

Mr Poots was appointed minister in May 2011.

His department three main responsibilities:

  • Health and Social Care (HSC), which includes policy and legislation for hospitals, family practitioner services and community health and personal social services;
  • Public Health, which covers policy, legislation and administrative action to promote and protect the health and well-being of the population; and
  • Public Safety, which covers policy and legislation for fire and rescue services.

A cross-party health committee advises and assists the minister. It also carries out a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role.

Permanent Secretary Dr Andrew McCormick

Image caption Dr Andrew McCormick

The permanent secretary is the most senior civil servant in the department. Among other duties, he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the health service.

The current permanent secretary is Dr Andrew McCormick.

The holder of this post is also the department's accounting officer, meaning he is answerable to the Executive on matters of departmental spending.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride

Image caption Dr Michael McBride

The chief medical officer, who at the moment is Dr Michael McBride, heads one of five professional groups within the department.

He provides professional medical and environmental health advice to ministers and departments, and helps inform policy decisions throughout the Department of Health.

He also advises on public health policy, including health promotion, disease prevention, emergency planning, health protection and environmental health.

Health and Social Care Board chief executive John Compton

Image caption John Compton

The Health and Social Care Board works with the health and social care trusts that directly provide services to the population.

It manages annual funding from the Northern Ireland Executive, currently £4bn, and is responsible for ensuring that all services are safe and sustainable.

The current chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board is John Compton.

Belfast Health Trust: Colm Donaghy and Dr Tony Stevens

Image caption Colm Donaghy

Northern Ireland has six health trusts charged with providing local health and care services.

One of the largest is the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which employs 20,000 people, administers the city's hospitals and has an annual budget of about £1bn.

It delivers health and social care to 340,000 people in Belfast and part of the Borough of Castlereagh.

It also provides specialist services to all of Northern Ireland.

Image caption Dr Tony Stevens

Its hospitals treat approximately 210,000 inpatient and day patients a year, see 680,000 outpatients and more than 200,000 people at its A&E departments.

Colm Donaghy is currently chief executive of the trust. Dr Tony Stevens is medical director of the trust.

Each hospital in Northern Ireland is managed by an administrator in charge of personnel, finances and facility practices according to a distinct set of policies and procedures established by trustees.