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Northern Ireland Branch News

From Deborah McNeill

The Northern Ireland Branch held its annual Seminar at the Ivanhoe Hotel in Belfast on 19 September, discussing ‘Living with Dysphagia/swallowing difficulties’ and ‘A Fitter Future for All’. Despite ‘Storm Ali’ raging, more than 70 practitioners attended.

The day started with John Toal – who has a swallowing difficulty – explaining how he copes with eating and drinking. His story was developed into the award-winning ‘Help stop choking’ DVD, which was created into an app and a website. John is passionate about spreading the word and sharing his learning on how to eat and drink safely.

Michelle Tennyson, Assistant Director for Allied Health Professions and Personal & Public Involvement and Patient Experience within the Public Health Agency, then updated us on the work of the Thematic Review of Choking Incidents. There are more than 90 professionals – a mix of nursing staff, dietitians, speech and language professionals, and caterers – working on improving outcomes, and it was encouraging to hear about what has been completed to date.

Yaqoob Ishaq, from Punjab Kitchens Ltd, outlined how his company is meeting the challenge of IDDSI and gave advice on transitioning to the new descriptors. Over the past few months, Yaqoob has given his time to train caterers in the safe production and service of Dysphagia diet meals.

Sharon Gilmore, Head of Food Standards & Dietary Health Team at the Food Standards Agency, introduced our second topic, The Minimum Nutritional Standards for Northern Ireland, by describing Caloriewise, a council-led award standardising the displaying of calories on staff restaurant menus to assist with informed choices. HCA Members in the Northern Health & Social Care Trust have already received the Caloriewise Award.

After lunch, Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, discussed a ‘Fitter Future for All’, a government framework addressing the escalating problem of obesity. He explained how we should be setting an example by offering healthy choices on staff and visitor menus across all catering and retail outlets and vending

The final speaker was Donna Wilson, a registered nutritionist, who is assisting catering managers with the implementation of the Minimum Nutritional Standards throughout our five Health & Social Care Trusts. Donna presented a tool that she has devised to help catering managers demonstrate their compliance with these standards, which highlighted some interesting calorie counts.

Our Trade colleagues presented an excellent exhibition of relevant equipment/products. We are always very appreciative to suppliers for their on-going support in delivering successful Branch programme events throughout the year.

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