McIlveen welcomes 12,000 milestone for Farm Family Health Checks

Date published: 23 November 2016

Farming Minister Michelle McIlveen has praised the role of the Farm Families Health Checks Programme in providing screening services and advice to rural communities.

Michelle McIlveen pictured with nurse Doreen Bolton and Downpatrick farmer Laurence Murray, the 12,000th person to avail of the Farm Family Health Check service

The Minister spent the afternoon at Saintfield mart, accompanied by mart owner Mr Brian Murphy, where she engaged with farmers and met nurses carrying out health checks on board a specially adapted screening vehicle for farmers who were attending the cattle auction. The Minister took the opportunity to speak with Downpatrick farmer Laurence Murphy, the 12,000th person to avail of a free health check since the launch of the Farm Family Health Check Programme in July 2012.

The Farm Families Health Checks Programme is funded through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme and is delivered in conjunction with the Public Health Agency and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

 Highlighting the importance of rural communities having access to such necessary services, Michelle McIlveen said: “Farmers dedicate a lot of hours to their business and there is a general view that some focus more on their business than their own wellbeing. Farmers working long and anti-social hours face greater isolation and tend to come from a culture of self sufficiency and are reluctant to seek help, particularly in relation to physical and indeed mental health issues.

“Today I had the opportunity of meeting with Mr Murray, the 12,000th person to avail of the health check service and to also hear from nurses, Doreen, Lorna and Sylvia about some of the cases where the screening programme identified underlying issues, that if left untreated could have had a detrimental impact on the  health and wellbeing of that person. 47% of the 12,000 farmers and farm family members screened to date have been advised to visit their GP.

“The service has been further enhanced with the introduction of adetailed cardiovascular disease and mental health well being assessment. I would urge our farmers and their families to avail of a health screening when visiting local marts or community events. This unique and very thorough programme has and will continue to have life changing impacts for rural dwellers.”

Interim Chief Executive of the PHA, Valerie Watts added: “We are delighted that the Farm Families programme has reached the landmark of the 12,000th person to use the mobile service. The farming community has particular needs and this service is designed to make access as easy as possible.

“This service has been very successful in providing access to healthcare in community settings that suit farming families and has addressed health issues ranging from highlighting risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, to identifying where there may be a risk of diabetes, and providing support for mental health issues.”

For further information on the Farm Family Health Check Programme and the screening van schedule please contact Elaine Catterson, Northern Health and Social Care Trust on 028 8563 5689 or via email to




Notes to editors: 

  1. The health checks are performed by trained nurses in a bespoke van that has two private treatment rooms and a waiting area. All client information collected during the health checks is recorded on an IT system designed specifically for this purpose. As a result of the health checks, clients may be advised to see their GP or signposted to other services (including Farmsafe training, smoking cessation, mental health services etc.), and nurses provide lifestyle advice tailored to the client’s needs.
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  3. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email DAERA Press Office: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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