Northern Ireland Health Protection Service

acknowledged by EPIET
Health Protection Service Northern Ireland (HPSNI)
12-22 Linenhall Street
BT2 8BS Belfast, Northern Ireland
United Kingdom

Contact person:

Neil Irvine

Tel. + 44 28 90321313
Fax. + 44 28 90553930

Description of the institute

The Health Protection Service in Northern Ireland (HPSNI) was formed in 2009, as part of the new Public Health Agency (PHA). This has brought together the epidemiology and surveillance functions of the previous Northern Ireland Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC (NI)) with the local communicable disease surveillance, investigation and control functions. Northern Ireland has been an EPIET host site since 1998, and a UK FETP site since 2014. 

Health Protection staffin comprises ten medical consultants and one nurse consultant, supported by nursing, scientific, information and administrative staff. The PHA has been approved by the UK Faculty of Public Heath as a recognised training location and regularly hosts clinicians seeking experience in communicable disease epidemiology. Medical students also have an opportunity to be attached to PHA for project work.

The main functions of the HPSNI are:

  • Surveillance of communicable disease at the local and regional level. The HPSNI receives laboratory reports of significant infections, notifications of infectious disease and returns from genito urinary medicine clinics. Enhanced surveillance programmes exist for influenza using sentinel practices and out-of-hours GP services, meningococcal infection, syphilis and tuberculosis. HPSNI currently monitors MRSA bacteraemia and C.difficile associated diarrhea and runs an extensive surgical site infection surveillance programme. HPSNI also monitors vaccination uptake rates as part of its vaccine preventable disease programme.
  • Provision of support to primary and secondary care health professionals around health protection issues.
  • Field investigations of communicable disease in the community and healthcare setting.
  • Multi-professional training in communicable disease epidemiology control.
  • Provision of support to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) on communicable disease policy and to the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) on the commissioning of health services.

 

The HPSNI has close working relationships with DHSSPS, HSCB, the hospitals and their laboratories, genitourinary medicine physicians, the Queen's University of Belfast (Departments of Epidemiology and Public Health, Microbiology and General Practice), and with the Department of Agriculture (Scientific and Veterinary Services). There are regular meetings with the relevant professional groups, which the Fellow would have the opportunity to attend and to make a contribution such as presenting work. There is ready access to national surveillance data and expertise through links with Public Health England, and the HPSNI is represented on a number of national groupings. There is well established liaison with the National Disease Surveillance Unit in the Republic of Ireland.

The Fellow will be based in the main PHA site at Linenhall Street, Belfast. The main University Medical Library, the Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory and the Regional Virology Laboratory are sited 2 kilometres away at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Training opportunities

The Fellow will work closely with both surveillance and other members of the HPSNI team at Linenhall Street. In particular, the Fellow will have the opportunity to be involved in the first response to health protection incidents and outbreaks through the HPSNI Duty Room. There may also be opportunities for attachments or secondments to DHSSPS and to Microbiology Laboratories.

Surveillance
There are opportunities for the management, development and evaluation of existing surveillance systems as well as the development of new systems. The trainee will have the opportunity to contribute surveillance reports to the monthly HPSNI bulletin "Transmit" and to contribute to annual Reports and other publications.

Outbreak investigations
The Fellow will be invited to participate in local and regional outbreak investigations, working with Consultants in Health Protection, Consultant Microbiologists and Environmental Health Officers.

Research project
There will be opportunities to work on specific research projects with a range of clinical, laboratory and other partners.

Training
The Fellow will take part in regional and national training activities, and in addition they will have an input into postgraduate education on communicable disease epidemiology through the Queen's University MSc Public Health Programme. Opportunities also exist to participate in cross border training programmes and investigations with colleagues in the Republic of Ireland.

Communication
There is scope both within and outside HPSNI for the Fellow to present his/her work with oral presentations and written publications.

Training supervision

Dr. Neil Irvine will be the main EPIET supervisor. For specific projects, the appropriate consultant for the area of work will supervise the Fellow. All necessary support including up-to-date computer equipment, communication and library facilities (both electronic and printed media) are available. The Fellow will be fully integrated into the team and will have access to all information and databases of the HPSNI.

Language requirements

English.

Training history

Number of EPIET fellows trained at the institute: six (1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010).
Number of EPIET alumni working at the institute: zero.