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24 March 2020

Statement from Directorate of Legal Services

The Directorate of Legal Services provides legal representation to all the public Health and Social Care Bodies in Northern Ireland, including the Belfast, Northern, Southern, Western and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts, the NI Ambulance Service Trust, Business Services Organisation, Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency.

Our office is now closed and we will now be working in a very limited capacity from home.  However, our access to our normal IT systems may be severely limited due to the huge demand for remote access on the HSC IT network.

Many of you will have seen the video posted at the weekend by the Respiratory Team at the Belfast Trust which captures the pressures facing our clinical colleagues in the HSC in the face of this pandemic.

In addition to the direct impact of the current situation on our legal practice, we are also seeking to highlight the position of our clients.  In a recent case, Mrs Justice Keegan noted that the case in question “had involved the significant expenditure of scarce resource by the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency in time of crisis”. 

At this time of extraordinary and unprecedented pressure on our health and social care system, clinical and social care professionals and those in senior decision-making roles are focused on working to protect all of our citizens.  Indeed, many HSC staff, potentially including ourselves, may be redeployed to other duties within the health system to assist in this effort.  For the sake of our families and yours, we want to ensure that these professionals can remain focused on this critical work as far as possible. 

It is against this background that we are asking all our colleagues in the legal profession for your forbearance during this emergency period.  We recognise, of course, that urgent and emergency cases must be attended to in line with the Guidance issued by the Lord Chief Justice, but more routine work involving HSC Bodies must inevitably take a back seat for now. 

We appreciate your understanding at this time.

June Turkington

Chief Legal Adviser (Acting)

Directorate of Legal Services

 



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