Northern Ireland setting the health systems research agenda

Northern Ireland setting the health systems research agenda

Over 70 health and research professionals came together for a workshop on Tuesday 17 April to make sure Northern Ireland actively contributes to setting the health systems research agenda for the coming years, both at home and abroad.

This ‘National Round Table Consultation’ was organised by the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC R&D, PHA) at Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey, with the support of TO-REACH, a European consortium of 28 partners from throughout Europe and beyond, including funding bodies, policy makers and researchers.

The aim of the workshop was two-fold – to identify good practice within regions that could be translated more widely to improve health services and public health and, to identify where research is needed to discover more effective ways to deliver health services and public health. 

Workshop attendees looked at the potential challenges of cross-national learning and explored the key contextual elements for transferring and introducing innovation in healthcare systems. Many examples of good practice and research priorities were identified which will now feed into a report that will ultimately lead to future opportunities for collaborative working and funding calls in the important area of health services and systems

Opening the consultation, Cathy Harrison, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Department of Health, said: “Over the last number of decades, European health systems have faced growing, common challenges such as ageing-related issues and continuous financial pressures which call for innovative solutions on how to organise health care in an equitable and efficient way.

“To address this situation there is an urgent need to bring in innovation and research evidence in order to identify and implement more effective and sustainable ways to organise, manage, finance, and deliver high quality care to all European citizens. In Northern Ireland we are serious about improving the health of our population and are transforming the way we design and deliver services. This workshop will ensure the issues and problems we experience in this corner of Europe are accounted for and help to shape future development.”

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, HSC Research and Development Division, PHA, introduced the TO-REACH project and commented: “We are delighted to see so many people here today at the consultation which will help us identify research priorities at not only our national level but at a wider European level and beyond. This will influence concrete actions for the effective and appropriate transfer of innovation between different health systems.”

Dr Mark Tully, Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, also commented at the workshop: “There are a number of significant threats to the health of European citizens that need urgently addressed, many of which are linked to ageing societies. Cross-national research programmes like our SITLESS study are seeking to develop innovative public health responses to vital issues such as physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour. These programmes are challenging, but worth investing in as they will ultimately contribute to better public health across Europe.”

Professor Mike Scott, Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Director of the Regional Medicines Optimisation Innovation Centre (MOIC), commented: “This workshop has been very valuable in terms of highlighting the need to learn from each other and adopt best practices and innovation and not reinvent the wheel. In addition, working collaboratively across both systems and countries is central to finding solutions for the gaps that exist in order to optimise healthcare for our populations. This collaborative working will facilitate robust funding bids to deliver high quality outcomes.”

For more information go to or check out the Twitter hashtag #ToReachNI2018 

Notes to the editor

Notes to Editor:


  • TO-REACH – Transfer of Organisational innovations for Resilient, Effective, equitable, Accessible, sustainable and Comprehensive Health Services and Systems.
  • TO-REACH is a consortium of 28 partners from throughout Europe and beyond, including funding bodies, policy makers and researchers.
  • TO-REACH is a Coordination and Support Action funded by Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 1, which started in December 2016 and is coordinated by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy.
  • For more information on TO-REACH go to


  • MOIC – The Medicines Optimisation Innovation Centre is a new regional innovation centre, which aims to ensure better health outcomes for the population through the consistent delivery of best practice relating to the use of medicines. Much has been done in recent years to improve the way medicines are used and Northern Ireland and is now recognised as one of the leading regions in Europe in addressing the health and social care needs of the older population through innovation in medicines optimisation. More action is needed to gain the best outcomes for patients from their medicines and to ensure clinical effectiveness, whilst both reducing avoidable adverse events and waste.
  • For more information on MOIC go to