A wide range of stakeholders including government representatives from Northern Ireland and Ireland and senior health and social care officials, recently joined staff and former employees of Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) to celebrate the Partnership’s 30th anniversary.
CAWT was established in 1992 by a visionary group of health and social care professionals, to improve the health and well-being of the border populations, by working across boundaries and jurisdictions.
Speaking at the event, Neil Guckian, Director General of the CAWT Partnership and Chief Executive of the Western Health and Social Care Trust, said: “CAWT is a unique structure which enables five partner organisations in Ireland and Northern Ireland to plan, manage and implement cross border health and social care projects and initiatives. Over the past three decades, the scale and impact of cross border activity across mental health and wellbeing, physical health and wellbeing, ageing well and community resilience has been immense.”
To date, more than 100,000 patients and clients, many of whom live in rural border areas, have benefitted from CAWT projects, more than 40,000 people have received training and over €70m of EU funding has been invested in health and social care in the border region.
Mr Guckian added: “We are all too aware of the impact that Covid-19 has had, and continues to have, on the health systems in Northern Ireland and Ireland, but it has certainly reinforced the need for ongoing collaboration in healthcare services, to support public safety in a border region with strong social and economic links. Our collaborative work would not have been possible without the essential support of EU structural funds administered by the Special EU Programmes Body, as well as the dynamic backing of the Departments of Health in both jurisdictions. We acknowledge, with gratitude, their financial support as well as the direction and oversight of their officials over the past 30 years.”
North-South co-operation underpins all of CAWT’s cross border health and social care activity which is driven by the needs of cross border regions and the health priorities of all of the key partners.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, Sharon Gallagher, Chief Executive, Strategic Planning and Performance Group of the Department of Health, NI, commented: “Over the past 30 years, CAWT’s innovative projects have played a key role in complementing and supporting health and social care activities delivered by the Department of Health. The knowledge sharing, research evidence and good practice demonstrated in the areas of acute services, mental health, children’s services, community health & wellbeing and older people’s services have informed innovation and improvements in patient care in both jurisdictions.”
She added: “The achievements of the Partnership are the result of the committed and combined efforts of a wide range of staff at all levels in the health service. As we all confront the challenge of recovery from the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic, we know that continued cross border collaboration will go some way to rebuilding the sector and strengthening future resilience.”
Muiris O’Connor, Assistant Secretary, Research & Development & Health Analytics, Department of Health Ireland, commented: “Since its inception, CAWT has managed significant EU grant funding, enabling CAWT partners to enhance and add value to core health and social care services. The Partnership has also been instrumental in facilitating other non EU funded cross border activity, including all-Island emergency planning and the furthering of North South health and social care co-operation, supporting initiatives in coronary and cancer care, commissioned directly by both Departments of Health.”
He added: “These initiatives have been hugely beneficial for our border population, offering innovative and life-saving treatments, reducing waiting times and improving health outcomes for patients from the Letterkenny University Hospital and Western Trust areas. In the years to come, we hope that we can continue to build on these successes together.”