The Public Health Agency (PHA) was established in 2009 under a major reform of health structures in Northern Ireland.
It is a multi-disciplinary, multi-professional body with a strong regional and local presence. It has four key functions:
- health and social wellbeing improvement;
- health protection;
- public health support to commissioning and policy development;
- HSC research and development.
The PHA was set up to provide a renewed and enhanced focus on public health and wellbeing by bringing together a wide range of public health functions under one organisation.
Its aim is to create better inter-sectoral working, including enhanced partnership arrangements with local government, to tackle the underlying causes of poor health and reduce health inequalities.
The PHA has around 350 staff spread across five locations.
Within the Service Development and Screening division of the Public Health Directorate, the PHA has a number of key roles in relation to screening programmes:
- Leading on the implementation of screening policy, including the introduction of new screening programmes and any required changes to existing screening programmes.
- Ensuring the delivery of high quality, safe, effective and equitable screening programmes for people in Northern Ireland.
- Supporting continuous quality improvement through the implementation of standards, programme monitoring and evaluation, and adverse incident investigation and management.
Having successfully led the implementation of AAA screening in Northern Ireland (as per the UK National Screening Committee recommendation that screening for AAAs should be offered to all men at age 65 years), the PHA will now focus on consolidation and development of the NIAAASP. Specifically, the PHA will now take lead responsibility within Northern Ireland for ongoing commissioning and external quality assurance of the programme.
This will include the establishment of a robust quality assurance structure and function to ensure it meets its key responsibilities within service development and screening. The governance and accountability structure is available here.
Audit and research
The PHA will develop and facilitate audit and research activities related to the AAA screening programme.
In addition, following successful alignment with the National AAA Screening Programme with regard to:
- training for screening staff;
- equipment procurement;
- adoption of the same IT solution.
The NIAAASP will work closely with English colleagues in the establishment of:
- quality assurance standards;
- programme monitoring;
- evaluation mechanisms.