The National Osteoporosis Society seeks to influence legislation and policy in Northern Ireland by engaging with the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We also work with Health and Social Care Northern Ireland and a number of non-departmental public bodies, including the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).
Our recent public affairs activity in Northern Ireland covers the following areas:
The management of falls, fragility fractures and osteoporosis
We have been pressing the DHSSPS to implement a service framework for older people, to set out a policy for falls and fracture care in Northern Ireland. This should aim to eliminate the current postcode lottery of osteoporosis service provision in Northern Ireland by advocating that a Fracture Liaison Service (FLS) be established for every hospital that receives fracture patients.
We welcome the recommendations of the 2009 ‘Prevention and Management of Fragility Fractures in Northern Ireland’ report. We call upon the DHSSPS and the Regional HSC Board to implement these recommendations as soon as possible.
We continue to work positively with NICE, with the aim of securing coherent clinical guidance for the management of osteoporosis and the prevention of fractures in Northern Ireland. We would like an accepted Clinical Guideline on the prevention of fractures to be made available as soon as possible.
More information about NICE guidance on osteoporosis is available here.
Assessing clinical performance
We will work with the Northern Ireland Executive and the RQIA to make sure that the quality and systems of care for people at risk of falls, and people with, or at risk of, fragility fractures and osteoporosis are measured on a regular basis, to stimulate best practice. Policy should include a guarantee of full funding for the National Hip Fracture Database in Northern Ireland and assessing the extent to which centres of falls and fracture care, in both primary and secondary care, have access to a local DXA scanner, which patients are able to travel reasonable distances to use.
The indicators that influence primary care
We are delighted that osteoporosis has been included in the 2012/13 Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) of the General Medical Services Contract, which applies across the whole of the UK. Prior to this, Northern Ireland had an osteoporosis Directed Enhanced Service (DES) which provided financial incentives to GPs to prevent, diagnose, treat and care for people with fragility fractures.
Public awareness and education
We want DHSSPS to tackle awareness of osteoporosis by ensuring that public health campaigns highlight the importance of bone health. Campaigns should include positive messaging on:
- taking weight-bearing exercise at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes
- eating a healthy, balanced, calcium-rich diet
- obtaining 15–20 minutes of sun exposure to the face and arms without sunscreen, 3–4 times a week, between May and September; this would ensure that the population of Northern Ireland could produce enough vitamin D for the year, ensuring the absorption of calcium
- avoiding smoking, which has been shown to slow the work of osteoblasts (bone building cells), result in an earlier menopause in women and increase the risk of a broken hip later in life
- drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol, certainly within the UK Government’s recommendation of women not drinking more than 2 or 3 units a day on a regular basis (for men the figure is no more than 3 or 4 units).
Northern Ireland Assembly dinner: the prevention and management of fragility fractures in Northern Ireland, 17 May 2010
The dinner provided an opportunity for MLAs and officials to hear about and discuss recommendations for falls, fracture and osteoporosis services in Northern Ireland.
Manifesto launch reception and FRAX® Fracture Risk Assessment Clinic, 11 & 12 May 2009, Northern Ireland Assembly
In May 2009, we launched our manifesto for Northern Ireland at a reception for MLAs hosted by Sue Ramsey MLA, Dawn Purvis MLA and Michelle O’Neill MLA at the Northern Ireland Assembly. The clinic offered MLAs an opportunity to have their own FRAX® fragility fracture risk assessment. FRAX® is an innovative web based tool, endorsed by the World Health Organisation, which enables individuals to calculate their own 10-year risk of sustaining a fragility fracture.
For more information
If you wish to know more about our public affairs activity in Northern Ireland, please contact Jeanette Owen, Country Development Manager for Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, at email@example.com.