The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is one of 12 Northern Ireland Departments created in 1999 as part of the Northern Ireland Executive by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.
It is the Department's mission to improve the health and social well-being of the people of Northern Ireland. It endeavours to do so by:
- leading a major programme of cross-government action to improve the health and well-being of the population and reduce health inequalities. This includes interventions involving health promotion and education to encourage people to adopt activities, behaviours and attitudes which lead to better health and well-being. The aim is a population which is much more engaged in ensuring its own health and well-being; and
- ensuring the provision of appropriate health and social care services, both in clinical settings such as hospitals and GPs' surgeries, and in the community through nursing, social work and other professional services
The Department has three main business responsibilities:
Health and Social Care (HSC), which includes policy and legislation for hospitals, family practitioner services and community health and personal social services;
Public Health, which covers policy, legislation and administrative action to promote and protect the health and well-being of the population; and
Public Safety, which covers policy and legislation for fire and rescue services.
The Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, is also Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care system, as well as Principal Accounting Officer for all the Department’s responsibilities.
Within the Department, the key business groups are the Resources and Performance Management Group, the Healthcare Policy Group, the Social Services Policy Group, the Health Estates Investment Group (HEIG) and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer.
There are five professional groups within the department, each led by a Chief Professional Officer:
They provide advice to and discharge functions for the Department on medical, nursing, estates, dental, pharmaceutical and social work matters. They also provide advice and services to the wider Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Prison Service in respect of public health, medical and dental services.