Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bits and Pieces on Crawfordsburn and Helen's Bay

Crawfordsburn Country Club

How very sad to see the contents of Country Club being sold at auction. Even the very floorboards were lifted and doors removed. The furniture and fittings all fell under the hammer. I have no problem with furniture being auctioned off but when it comes to pure vandalism on such a scale this fine and honourable Club House must have reached an all time low in it’s history.

We still wait what will be happening to the site and rumours abound. What ever happens the new owners must be very aware that many are keeping a watchful eye on any proposals put forward. Following the stinging attack on the Planning Service by the Management Board and the reversal of the Planning Service opinion, I think the Planning Service will also be very mindful of the village strength of feeling.

We await the outcome, whatever it will be, the message is loud and clear any proposal must be in character with the village and consideration must be taken of the views of residents.

The Fence

Another sage of bureaucracy is that of the fence which has been erected behind Chimera Wood facing onto to the Country park.

The residents acted as ‘keepers’ of the Park, they kept a careful eye on what was happening behind them. The collected rubbish from the pathway and kept the area clear and tidy.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency in their wisdom declared that they were erecting a fence to protect their property against the residents, who might e.g. fall when moving from their property onto the Park property and submit a claim. The residents were accused of stealing land. They were accused of dumping rubbish.

A small group of residents along with myself met with representatives from NIEA. I am well used to meetings and have sat through many where my patience has been sorely tried. However, at this meeting I think the civil servants forgot those two words – civil and that they were servants of the public.

The fence has been erected taking up time, effort, and a large amount of taxpayer’s money and to what end? A good question… I am still waiting for a common sense answer. Petty bureaucracy – petty with a capital P.

Bayburn Trail

For several years now I have been working with the Council to have Bayburn Trail signs erected with the guidance of Robin Masefield. It has had a few hiccups, with plans being lost and tracking down lost details.

However, all that is past and I am very pleased to see 2 of the signs erected. My thanks to the graphic department of the Council and I know that many will gain pleasure from using the signs as a guide to what we call the Bayburn Trail.

Crawfordsburn Primary School

The dangerous traffic situation at the Primary School was something I held a meeting about some 12 – 15 years ago. I have over that period of time had meetings with the Road Service, the South Eastern Education and Library Board, the PSNI – you name it I have had everyone I could think of visit the site and try to find an answer.

Last year I invited the Chief Executive from the South Eastern Education and Library Board to the school and along with the Headmistress, Mrs Moffett we watched the traffic chaos during the morning drop off.

Somehow we struck it lucky and there was actually some spare money in the SEELB budget. The outcome, things moved quickly, plans were drawn up and hey presto during the summer we have a new entrance and exit. Unfortunately the work did not begin just as quickly as we would have hope and things were somewhat difficult for a few weeks in September.

I think everyone will agree that the new internal drop off for parents and buses is much safer. There are still a few minor issues to be completed but it just shows keep trying and somewhere along the line things come right.


In the October Planning Schedule, the Crawfordsburn Inn application for the 3-storey car park and 6 new bedrooms – had 220 objections.

15 – 19 Seahill Road Craigavad - demolition of existing dwellings and erection of 20 units. had 189 objections

19 and 21 Meadow Park – demolition of existing detached dwellings and garages and replace with 5 detached dwellings – had 67 objections

These three applications were deferred for further consideration and all three have returned with the opinion of Approval. Makes me wonder, what’s important in decisions Planning Service dictate or resident’s opinion.

Also contained within the schedule were 2 items seeking retrospective permission – guess what – permission was granted. So build what you like and then ask permission – I am told by the planning Service that it is at the owner’s own risk. But, looking at the odds other than a letter telling you that you really should not have done this, obviously it is worth the ‘risk’

Over 60's Benefit Entitlement

Over 60s benefit entitlement ‘as simple as a2b’

I am concerned that every week thousands of people over 60 in Northern Ireland miss out on their share of unclaimed benefits and urged older people to visit the Access to Benefits website and find out what you may be entitled to receive.

The A2B website is an invaluable tool for working out what people should be getting, in terms of benefits. Even if you aren’t computer literate, ask a trusted family member or friend to help you out.

It is a very simple process that could make a world of difference to the lives of thousands of pensioners. At least £50 million per year goes unclaimed by over 60s in Pension Credit alone in Northern Ireland.

This is an innovative not-for-profit service which works by asking you to answer a series of simple and anonymous questions, which will allow the website to calculate what you’re entitled to receive.

One of the major barriers to benefit uptake for older people is the sheer size and complexity of the benefits system. However, there is also the issue of stigma. I would emphasise to all over 60s that, having worked all your life and contributed to the ‘pot’, the uptake of benefits is a right – not a matter of charity.

In light of the current financial crisis and the sharp increases in electricity and fuel costs the pressures on people who are threatened by poverty is brought into sharp focus. Fuel poverty is a much greater problem in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the United Kingdom with 24 per cent of households unable to heat their homes to an adequate standard. That is why Access to Benefits is so important.

Ensuring that older people gain access to their full entitlements may be crucial this winter. The A2B site provides details of organisations which deliver benefits and provide advice and information about benefits and it contains links to claim forms on other websites. The benefit calculation is completely anonymous and all data is held securely.

Visit the website for further information, and to calculate your entitlement –

National Adoption Week Supported

I commended the work of adoptive families following the launch of National Adoption Week

Currently in its twelfth year, National Adoption Week has been very successful to date. Launched officially by my Party colleague and Minister of Health, Michael McGimpsey MLA, at a special event in Hillsborough earlier this week, I wish to commend the organisers of this initiative for all they have achieved so far, and wish them all the best in their endeavours.

National Adoption Week provides an opportunity for adopted children, adoptive parents and prospective adopters to celebrate the success and rewards of adoption in Northern Ireland.

The special week, set aside in November, also encourages individuals and couples to think about applying for adoption and making a difference in a child’s life. The rewards from giving a child of any age, and from any background, a home and a chance in life are priceless,” the UUP councillor said.

I am encouraged by figures announced by the Department of Health which revealed that 64 children were adopted from care during the year ending March 2008, however I feel this number can be substantially increased through greater public awareness.

The role of National Adoption Week is also to provide information to those who have put their child up for adoption, and support for families who have adopted. Invaluable assistance is available through the National Adoption Organisation and at

Accessible entrance to the Front of the Town Hall

For too many years now I have been seeking an entrance to the front of the Town Hall for those who have mobility problems and have quite frankly been shown to the side door, in my opinion this was nothing more than an insult.

The first time I noticed this was watching guests entering the Town Hall for a wedding and one of the guests was in a wheel chair, her options were either be lifted up the steps, with men struggling to carry the wheelchair or have someone push her to the side door. I was appalled.

This was not a one off situation and has happened whenever someone has problems going up the steps to enter.

Several years ago I put forward a notice of motion that modifications be made to the entrance to give everyone the right to enter by the front door.

Unfortunately this took some time as the plans had to be submitted to the Environment Agency and the Planning Service, as well there were problems with the authorisation of the ramp but at last these have been approved. My grateful thanks to the Officers from the Town Hall who persevered with the plans and as well who had to listen to my nagging!

I was delighted to hear that the plans were approved at the Planning meeting and that there will now be two front entrances, which can be accessed by persons in wheelchairs. A ramp will be positioned from the car park with a resting area for wheel chairs.

Permission has also been granted for one designated car parking space beside the ramp and the good thing is that there is sufficient money within the estimates for the work to be carried out. I look forward to the work beginning next summer and that it will be carried out as quickly as possible.

Needless to say I am thrilled that this will now become a reality and that in future our Town Hall will be accessible to all via the front entrance.

Friends of Bangor Community Hospital

As a Former Chairman and Founder of The Friends of Bangor Community Hospital we were pleased to report that we have had a successful year in fundraising.

The Friends are a small group of volunteers who over the years have raised almost £120,000. All of the money has gone towards making our hospital more comfortable in so many ways. We have provided equipment for almost every department within the hospital. This has ranged from chairs, tables, desks, carpets, trolleys and a hydraulic couch. In fact if an item was needed the Friends were more than happy to provide the finance. We have also been indebted to the many individuals and groups who have taken such an interest in The Friends and in our community Hospital. They have donated much-needed funds which help provide the many items of need.

During the past year we were very sad to learn of the death of the Chairman Mr Raymond Gordon. Raymond had a wonderful sense of humour and gave of his time without question to the needs of the hospital.

A few months ago, Miss Barbara Grant, who was a founder member and Vice Chair, stepped down from Committee. Barbara brought to the table a wealth of knowledge and experience and will be sadly missed.

In April, as part of our fundraising, we arranged Gardeners’ Question Time. This was a popular event with many and proved to be not only an evening of fun but at the same time provided for those present and the BBC listeners a great deal of knowledge following the questions.

This year, our Annual General Meeting will take place in the Community Hospital in the Upper Seminar Room at 7pm on Monday 16th November 2009.

Alcohol Awareness Week

I am urging people in the North Down area to ‘think about what you drink’ as we prepare for Alcohol Awareness Week, which begins on Monday, October 19.

This is an opportunity for people to take a long, hard look at their alcohol intake. It may even be worth keeping a ‘drink diary’ across the week to work out how many units you’re taking in – perhaps without even realising.

There is widespread concern that excessive alcohol consumption is an integral part of the modern culture of the United Kingdom and alcohol abuse appears to have reached epidemic proportions.

The guidelines on lower-risk drinking recommend men do not drink more that 3-4 units daily (drinking about two pints or two cans of normal-strength lager or beer on a regular basis) and women do not drink more than 2-3 units daily (regularly drinking about a large glass of wine or three single measures of spirits).

Drinking above these levels can increase your risk of heart disease, breast cancer, liver disease, stroke and other diseases. Drinking above lower-risk guidelines can also impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep and affect your general health.

My Party colleague, the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, recently informed Assembly Members that the staggering and unacceptable total of 286 people died as a direct result of alcohol in 2008. He also noted that alcohol is 62 per cent more affordable today than it was in 1980.

There is also the issue that alcohol consumption – especially heavy consumption – is a significant factor in criminal and disorderly behaviour. Over three quarters of weekend arrests are alcohol related with violence becoming synonymous with weekend closing times at pubs and clubs.

The cost of alcohol is clear in social, health and policing terms. One only has to watch some of the TV adverse on dangerous driving through alcohol, one of the most poignant is the young happy couple sitting on a wall, when a stupid careless driver kills the young man and leaves the girl in a wheel chair - take heed this is not fantasy!

However, alcohol abuse does not only manifest itself outside clubs at closing time-it is all too easy to get into a routine of regular drinking which is above the lower-risk guidelines.

There are agencies to help those who have become alcoholics and as well those who feel they need help and support to overcome what is a disease. Some find that keeping a drink diary for a week is easy and highlights just how much a person drinks, whether it is being out for a meal, having a night cap, or even at times through boredom while watching TV. The diary can really make you stop and think about whether you ought to be cutting back – and there’s no better time than now, during Alcohol Awareness Week.

Alcohol can have a devastating effect on family life, it can ruin careers and most of all in the present economic times it is a sheer waste of money.

Breast Screening Saved my Life

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and like many I knew this, but it was something at the back of my mind. I have friends and colleagues and very close family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and all have come through with flying colours. But again, I think as a woman the thought of breast cancer was something I knew about, read about, watched the TV adverts but always suppressed the reality of it in my thinking.

How stupid, cancer is a disease which knows no boundaries, neither age, gender, colour, creed or social standing. It is indiscriminate, silent and cruel.

On 20th August I had my usual busy day and between 2 appoints I had written in my diary 12.50 Mobile Clinic Breast Screening, Bangor Community Hospital. I had no thoughts on this other than, must remember to attend as I always have every 2 years.

A few days later we visited the family in England and I never once did I wonder what my screening result would be? We returned very late because of flight delays on a Sunday evening. As always I opened my mail even thought it was 1.30am. One of the brown envelopes changed my life and neither of us had much sleep that night.

The letter was from the breast screening clinic in Linenhall Street Belfast giving me an appointment for Tuesday 1st September, while it did say 4 out of 5 appointments were given the all clear, I should being someone with me. I knew something was wrong I never had had this call before and I just prayed please don’t let me be the number 5.

We arrived at the Linenhall Street clinic, my first impressions sitting in the waiting room was, that it was small, cramped and a bit soulless. However a very kind and gentle Marie Curie nurse called me and introduced herself and spoke to me with great calmness. I was handed a wire basket thing with some sort of a gown. We then walked to an even smaller waiting area where the changing cubicles were. On being told to change into the gown, stripping from the wait up and put my clothes into the basket and wait with the others I would be called. I took one step into the waiting area, a tiny little space with seats tight together where there were about 5 ladies all sitting in these modesty gowns. I simply froze and backed out – I could not enter the room. I asked could I wait in the changing cubicle and the nurse realised I was becoming upset said to do whatever I was comfortable with.

I waited in this modesty cape; then when called, walked up and down a corridor carrying my wire basket all the time, saw the doctor, back down the corridor. Waited then called for screening and a biopsy. Down the corridor again, the biopsy was carried out twice with the second one being very painful, so much so that I cried out. Back down the corridor and at last changed into normal clothes. The nurse called me to see the doctor and when I asked her did I need my husband, her answer of yes confirmed all of my suspicions. Approximately 1 hour after arriving, we sat in silence while being told the results which were I had breast cancer. There were no violins playing in the background, no clash of thunder, just silence I just sat and cried. What do you say? The position was explained. Our journey home and the next few days are difficult to remember.

I can only say I do not know what happened to me regarding the modesty gowns, they ‘freaked me out’ I simply could not handle that I walked about the corridors, in this gown, carrying a black carrier ‘shopping basket’ containing my clothes, while others presumably staff walked about in their clothes. I felt as if I had a bell around me saying unclean. This may all sound melodramatic – but my stomach simply turns when I see that particular pattern or the gown. I would have felt much better being in my own top. In the letter for the appointment it could be asked that you wear something which could be easily removed or at least give the choice of wearing your own simple top or their gown.

The next few nights I think we averaged 4 hours sleep; I wandered about the house during the night made cups of tea and sat looking out the window. I though about my life, my husband and my beloved family, darkness brings out many demons.

My appointment for surgery was Monday 7th September and I was admitted into Ward 8 on the Sunday.

We arrived at the hospital and I was feeling very nervous and ‘uptight’. However, the nurses were kindness themselves they got me settled. Later on the consultant arrived, followed by the anethist with both explaining in detail what would happen the next morning. They made sure I understood everything quite clearly and left me feeling more reassured.

Monday morning I woke, just feeling my stomach was churning and my nerves were beginning to take over. But, again, the nurses calmed me, and I was given the pre operative pills to sedate me.

I do not remember the journey to the operating theatre nor the return trip. When I recovered I was in no pain, feeling a bit woozy and my husband waiting at my side. Apparently I was talking rubbish – (some might say what’s new). Later I was able to sit up and enjoy some tea and toast. But I have to say at teatime the scrambled egg was not quite the colour of scrambled egg I knew and was a bit tasteless. So not much was eaten.

Next day I was up and allowed home in the afternoon. Following this we had to wait for 10 days for the result of the biopsy.

On Thursday 17th September we arrived at the hospital. I felt great, tired but feeling really good within myself. The consultant sat us down and explained what had taken place during the operation and unfortunately some of the cancer had ‘escaped’. I needed to be re admitted on Sunday 20th for further surgery on 21st. I cried through this interview and was on a real down for the rest of the week. Once again, very little sleep for either of us.

At the end of the interview with the consultant, I was handed the usual letter for my doctor in the infamous brown envelope. I told him not to bother sealing it as once I was in the car I would read it and then pass on to my doctor. I feel that if the letter was about me I had a right to see what it said. But then – not everyone wants to know. I am afraid I did.

By now I knew the procedure pre the operation so Monday morning I was very tense. The seditatives I think I fought against because remember the journey to theatre very clearly. I remember moving on to the operating table and thinking – this is very narrow I hope I don’t fall off! However, later I woke in the recovery room, crying and not really knowing why. The doctor in charge talked to me wiped my tears away, dosed me with more morphine and that was me out to the world.

I remember hearing voices and it was 2 of the nurses talking to me when I was back in my bed, saying my husband would be up soon. I still had my eyes closed and was not fully conscious but they washed my face, tidied my hair and even put a little lipstick on me. I felt so much better and was deeply touched by their care.

Ten days later we return to hear the outcome of the second operation. The consultant advised that I might need chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. Once again, the tears flowed and I was really in depression. However, I worked it out in my mind if this was what I needed to ‘lock the door’ I would have the 6 months chemotherapy, whatever I needed I would take. I visited my hairdresser who was extremely kind and understanding, and he arranged I would come in after hours to have my hair taken away and a wig fitted. For a woman this is probably the worst time during the whole process, you have part of your breast removed, if not all and then lose your hair. It needs great courage to face and over come this.

We saw the oncologist the following Wednesday and again, he very gently talked us through everything. The outcome was on his advice I would not need chemotherapy but a course of radiotherapy plus hormone tablets would be necessary.

I simply could not believe what he was saying and we both pressed him on was this course sufficient.

Once again our journey home was one of tears – but this time of relief.

During this whole process it was a roller coaster of emotions, of tears of fears of very deep troughs of depression. It is as difficult for husbands as it is for wives and at times even more so. I was lucky Stanley was with me every step of the way, he helped me through some very low moments, I think we kept worrying about each other. But I realise not everyone has a husband or close relation to rely upon and they have my deepest admiration.

From day one I have also been acutely aware of the kindness and the dedication I have received from everyone, from the consultant, doctors, nurses, who held me while I cried and the very cheerful physiotherapist who made sure I did my exercises.

This care was not just to me, I watched while in hospital the nurses handle some very difficult situations, with the same attention and care.

I am now recovering and still very tired, but when I think back to a few weeks ago how my life changed and how much has been achieved – I stand in awe and admiration of the health service. Everyone was helpful, kind and treated me with dignity and respect. The Marie Curie nurses – are simply angels. The hospital staff I could not have asked for better care. (Apart from some of the food particularly, the scrambled egg and the green soup which was ugh!) .

Another important aspect of recovery is the many who have contacted me, sent cards etc. again I am taken aback by the kindness. But overall I must thank the many individuals and groups who prayed for me again, this played a major role in my recovery.

Cancer is as I began is an indiscriminate, silent and cruel disease. But improvements have been made and continue to be made on the treatment of breast cancer. I have met many women during my procedure who have gone through the much worse than me. All have offered help and advice and I don’t think we really realise just how many women breast cancer affects, and how many women simply get on with their lives – to the full, following surgery.

All I can say is a very simple thank you to everyone, and I feel as if my life has been handed back to me.

None of this would have been possible with such good results if I had not gone for my mammogram and I cannot express forcibly enough that every women must attend – quite simply I would never have discovered the lump and this procedure saved my life.

Proposed Cuts to the PSNI

Speaking on the proposed £17 million cuts from the PSNI,and as Chair of North Down District Policing Partnership, I am quite clearly stating that, following a meeting with the Security Minister, the Acting Chief Constable and the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board we have media reports revealing that the PSNI annual budget may be cut by £17 million. We have been assured that improving front line visibility and the effectiveness and efficiency of the service is a priority, however North Down DPP are concerned as to the proposed cuts.

Since North Down DPP was formed in 2003 we have received ongoing requests for an increased police presence and increased patrolling across North Down. It is with caution that the DPP view this announcement. Whilst the DPP welcomes the focus on front line policing which we believe is essential to reduce the fear of crime and provide reassurance to the community, there is concern that the savings will be taken from other essential areas. Again for over 6 years the DPP has received reports from the residents of North Down that communication with the victims of crime and community safety are essential to provide information and assistance. Similarly crime investigation and the need to remove criminals from our streets is a priority. The DPP await further information on the proposed cuts but would urge all those in the Policing Board, PSNI and Northern Ireland Office to place the safety and reassurance of the people of North Down above financial savings.

Education Chaos created by Education Minister

As an Ulster Unionist representative on North Down Borough Council, I have quite clearly stated, that the onset of a new school year has been marred by the continuing chaos inflicted upon schools and parents.

Children who have just entered P7 have only two months to settle in before being faced with an unregulated transfer test. This is an unnecessary and unwanted burden to put on children, parents and teachers.

Parents within our community tell me they feel that they have been cut adrift and betrayed by the Minister.

Teachers are in the same boat – facing yet another year with no clear way forward, thanks to the Education Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the need for a workable replacement for – rather than abolition of – the 11 Plus.

The Minister is deluded if she thinks she has created a less stressful environment for children approaching transfer. No one knows what’s going on. Teachers and governors have also been abandoned by the Minister, who has no interest in supporting them in these very trying circumstances, she appears to be governed by a dogma or mantra of self righteous denial on the stress and confusion her blinkered actions which are hers alone are creating within to our education system.

Local primary schools deserve better than to be abandoned by the Education Minister. She warned that the Sinn Fein Minister’s threat against teachers and governors who took the responsible decision of assisting and supporting children who will be sitting the transfer tests was “shameful bullying”.

I for one am proud of our education system. We consistently out-perform other regions across the UK, but the Minister wants to sacrifice that success to pursue for her own divisive agenda.

The Ulster Unionist Party lobbied hard in an effort to prevent this chaos. We recognised the need keep the 11+ in place for a short time, to give certainty to parents, children and teachers, and replace it with streamlined tests that put less pressure on children.

We have a system of which we should be proud, but which we acknowledge needs reform. It is simplistic and false to blame educational underachievement on academic selection – these problems do not begin at 11 plus, but rather start at 11 minus.

Given that a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Report in 2006 said that ¼ of children in Northern Ireland leave primary school without a firm grounding in the basics of literacy and numeracy, the Minister should be addressing the real problem within our education system.

Interview with local newspaper on my appointment to the Patient Client Council

Question:Could you just explain a bit more about your background in the health service and politics.

My Answer:Health issues are absolutely central to my involvement with politics. Indeed it was my involvement with the campaign to save the Banks Residential Home in Ballyholme which brought me into the political scene.
As a result of that campaign I realised that if you wanted to get things done then you really did need the backing of the local political interests. Once elected to North Down Council in the early 1980’s I became heavily involved with the establishment of Bangor Community Hospital and also with early rationalisation in the service when I encouraged the amalgamation of two local trusts to form the Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust. I went on to become a non-executive director in that Trust. So you will see I have been heavily involved with the health service for a lengthy period and have a great affinity for it.
My first priority in my political life is to look after the interests of North Down - and that has always included health issues. As a local councillor I have a wide range of contacts throughout the local community and have dealt with their concerns on a wide range of issues - including planning housing and environmental issues.
This new appointment will help to ensure that full account will be taken of any concerns which local people have about health and social care in the area.

Question: How did you get appointed to the PCC? Who is it made up of?

My Answer: I have had a great interest in the reorganisation of the health service and always took the view that sensible reorganisation was both inevitable and necessary. The old system had become virtually unworkable with its large number of often overlapping Trusts Boards and Councils Through that interest I was always aware that the old health councils would be replaced with one central body which would be charged with looking after the
interests of patients and other users of the service.

The appointments to the new Patient and Client Council were publicly advertised and I applied. Appointments were made on the merit principle in an open competition. That process involved a detailed application form and an in depth interview
to test candidates knowledge of what was involved and their commitment to that. I was delighted that I came through that intensive process successfully.
The PCC has a management Board made up of locally elected representatives, members of the community and voluntary sector, interested members of the public and trade unions. The membership of the Board is drawn from across Northern Ireland and meets in public on a monthly basis across Northern Ireland.

Question:What experience do you bring to your new role?

My Answer: As a district councillor I have extensive practical experience of dealing with a wide variety of issues of concern to local people. I pride my self in dealing promptly with any issue raised with me. Equally important I find that I can satisfactorily resolve most of those issues - although I know from experience that you simply cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time! At a very practical level I chaired the complaints procedure committee in my capacity as a non-executive director on the old Ulster
Community and Hospitals trust. That gave me a very valuable insight into the nature of complaints and how to ensure that they were dealt with satisfactorily. All of this experience, focused as it is on the needs of local people and communities, will help me to make a positive contribution to the work of the new Council.

Question: What are your priorities or targets in your new role?

My Answer: This is a new body and the first step is to get it up and running effectively.
We will then need to look at how best we can create working links with individuals and communities and health care bodies. That will involve working closely with those in health and social care on a professional basis. Our main objective will be to find ways of ensuring that members of the general public have a clear way to express any concerns or views they may have on health and social care.
I would be anxious that we get to that stage as soon as at all possible - but we must have adequate structures in place otherwise there will be no clear focus on the issues which concern people.

Question: What are your thoughts on the health service¹s new structure in Northern Ireland? How will the health service benefit from a regional board rather than district authorities?

My Answer: Doubtless there will be teething problems as the new structures start to bed in as they are after all of a fairly fundamental nature. I have however no doubt that change was needed in rationalising a completely unwieldy
structure which involved far to many bodies which often tended to overlap with each other. There was also a clear need to rationalise the number of acute facilities which we had in Northern Ireland. It is important to stress that while there has been centralisation, the new structures also provide for district level provision.
A major improvement in the health service’s new structures is the Patient and Client Council. The Council, for the first time, provides a powerful voice for patients, carers and their families from all over Northern Ireland.

Question: What are the weaknesses in health services in the North Down area?

My Answer: With no acute provision in the North Down geographical area we must ensure that the facilities in the Ulster Hospital are adequate to meet the needs of the area and there have always been some concerns about this.
Question: What areas do you feel most strongly about?

My Answer: Another area of particular interest to me is that we have a significant number of elderly people in the area and we must ensure that there are adequate facilities to meet their needs particularly in relation to support for carers.
We really do need to look very hard at this latter issue.

Question:What is the future of Bangor Community Hospital? How will it be affected by the new health centre planned for the town?

My Answer: As I indicated earlier I have a very strong personal interest in Bangor Community Hospital. I am absolutely confident about its future as a support facility for the major hospitals in Belfast - particularly the Ulster. It will continue to play a key role in taking the pressure of those acute hospitals both with regard to minor injuries and a range of less acute treatments. There is for example thought being given to the creation of a facility to support patients suffering from strokes. We must however always
bear in mind that the role of a community hospital is to support and supplement the work of the larger acute facilities which have the range of expertise required to deal with major medical issues.

Question:What are your thoughts of the previous Eastern Health Council? Any plans to continue its work?

My Answer: The previous Eastern Health Council - like its counterparts elsewhere in Northern Ireland did much good work in looking after patient interests.
However like the rest of the health service there were too many bodies to enable them to have the impact needed at central policy level. The new body will build on the work undertaken by the old councils and in my view will give that work a much greater focus

Question: With the focus of the PCC on the whole of Northern Ireland, how
difficult will it be to discuss local matters and deal with local issues?

My Answer: The PCC certainly has a regional role to play and that is a major strength in the new structures but importantly its work will be also be informed by local people with local issues. The Board of the PCC are already discussing the setting up of local committees. These groups will be made up of local people, and will ensure that the PCC has a credible local presence across Northern Ireland.

Question: When and where will PCC meetings be taking place? Are they open to the public?
My Answer: The membership of the Board is drawn from across Northern Ireland and meets in public on a monthly basis. The July meeting will be held in our own area and the venue and agenda will be posted on our website www.patientclientcouncil closer the time.
These meetings are an opportunity for the PCC Board to hear concerns from local people about health and social care services in their area. The members are committed to listening to people’s views and making sure they are heard by those making decisions. The PCC provides an opportunity for patients, careers and their families to be directly involved in health and social care. This can only mean better care and better outcomes for everyone.

Question:How can patients with any concerns contact you or the PCC?

My Answer: The PCC will eventually have a regional HQ in Antrim and 5 local area offices based in Belfast, Broughshane, Lurgan, Omagh and Newtownards.
The offices in Antrim and Newtownards will open later this year. In the meantime the Council already has skilled and professional staff to help people make a complaint and or assist in issues raised by the public. Anyone with concerns should telephone 0800 9170222 or alternatively please contact our Belfast office at
The Patient and Client Council
1st Floor Lesley House,
25-27 Wellington Place
BT1 6GD.

My own role along with my fellow Board members would be to oversee the work of the Council and in particular to ensure that it deals effectively with all issues brought to it's attention by the public. I will of course have a particular interest in any problems relating to North Down. As a local councillor I have always made myself freely available to local people and anyone with a concern regarding the new arrangements should feel free to contact me.
My telephone number is 02891 461739 and my e mail is -