The End of an Era - Closure of the Northern Ireland Branch after 38 Years!

The Northern Ireland Branch of AMRO (Association of Medical Records Officers) as it was first known, was formed on 10th November 1981 with a total of 12 members from all over the province, two of whom namely Edith Shirley and Ishbel McMillan had been members of AMRO for more than 20 years.
 
The first Chairman of the Branch was the Chief Executive Officer of the Western Health Board. The Branch met on a regular basis and worked hard to promote professionalism in Medical Records and raise the profile of Medical Records in the Health Service in Northern Ireland.
 
Miss Edith Shirley, the current Treasurer of the Branch, having been a member of the Branch since its formation has been heavily involved in AMRO and later IHRIM for over 40 years. Edith was the first Secretary of the Northern Ireland Branch and was a Council Member for 6 years and an Examiner for almost 10 years. She was awarded a Fellowship of the Institute in 1985 and became Chairman of the Northern Ireland Branch in 1989.  She was Chairman of the Branch from 1989 until 1995 and since then has been Treasurer.
 
Mrs. Patricia Dowling, the current Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Branch has been a member of the Institute since 1981. She obtained her Certificate with Distinction in 1984 and her Diploma in 1996. In 2004, Patricia was awarded a Fellowship in recognition of her significant and demonstrable contribution to the Health Records Profession.
 
In 1996, Patricia became Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Branch and has been Chairperson since then. She has actively promoted the Institute since joining it in 1981 and in 1997 she  developed an extensive Training Portfolio for the Branch which included a total of 7 courses  covering a wide range of topics such as assertive behaviour skills, communicating effectively,  customer care, data protection, confidentiality and quality initiatives. The training courses were very successful and well attended by staff across the Province and certainly raised the profile of IHRIM in Northern Ireland.
 
Patricia was elected National Chairman of the Institute In 2004 and held this Office for 2 years. She was then elected as Director of Finance and Administration of the Institute in 2006 for a period of 3 years. In 2008, due to the resignation of the IHRIM National Chairman, Patricia took on this role again until a replacement was found.
 
Theresa Conaghan, The Secretary of the Branch, joined AMRO in 1993 as an Affiliate, and progressed to a Licentiate Member. Theresa has been Secretary of the Northern Ireland Branch for over 17 years. She has been heavily involved in the work of the Branch over these years and played a key role in organising the very successful 2006 National Conference in Belfast. Theresa has attended a number of IHRIM Conferences over the years, in England and Scotland and she also attended IFHRO Conferences in Dublin and Washington DC.
 
Ishbel McMillan the current Communications Officer of the Branch, joined AMRO in 1965 and was a member of the West and North of Scotland Branch until the formation of the Northern Ireland Branch In 1981. She obtained her Certificate Examination in1967 and her Diploma In 1968. She was awarded a Fellowship in 1985 and has been an Officer of the Branch since 1995. Ishbel attended most of the National Conferences between 1969 and 1985 and also attended the  International Congress in The Hague and  a number of European Congresses in Brighton, The Hague and Heidelberg .
 
Over the years, since its formation, the Branch Officers have worked tirelessly to promote the Institute and raise its profile in Northern Ireland. The Branch Officers have organised many educational events, conferences and training courses. They have organised a total of 16 One Day Conferences which were extremely well attended by Health Service Personnel from all over the Province. On average the attendances at these conferences were in the region of 100. 
 
In 2005 the Branch was awarded the Turner Award by the IHRIM Executive Board in recognition of its outstanding contribution to the profession.
 
In 2006, the Branch organised the very successful National IHRIM Conference in the Wellington Park Hotel In Belfast. This was the first National Conference held in Northern Ireland however, it was extremely well attended by members from all over the UK, in fact the total number of delegates over the three days totalled an impressive 269.  
 
The Conference also included an extensive and diverse Exhibition which was well attended by delegates. It will be remembered as one of the best Annual National Conferences of the Institute. The theme of the Conference was: - “Performance under Scrutiny - The Information Agenda “
The Conference was opened by The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the programme included many high-profile speakers. The social programme of the Conference will be remembered for its Irish theme and was enjoyed by all.
 
The membership of the Branch rose over the years due to the continued efforts of the Officers of the Branch organising events and in 2002, it had risen to an impressive 31! At that time, it was one of the most active IHRIM Branches in the UK, in fact, over the years, the number of Northern Ireland Members recorded on the IHRIM Database totalled 51.  
 
In addition to organising a total of 16 highly successful  Annual One Day Conferences,  the Branch Officers also organised many social outings for both members and non-members , including a trip to Stormont Parliament Buildings, 2 shopping trips to Dublin, a boat trip on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh , fashion shows and a Strawberry Fayre to name a few !
 
Over the years the Branch has been represented at many of the National Conferences in England, Scotland and Wales and in fact in 2004, two of the Officers attended the International Federation of Health Records Officers (IFHRO) Conference in Washington DC.
 
However, despite the Branch Officers best efforts, the membership started to decline with the restructuring of the Health Service in Northern Ireland  and despite the many events organised by the Branch to raise the profile of the Institute , the membership has  declined to a very low level with Trusts favouring membership of the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS). 
 
Sadly, for a number of years now, the only membership of the Branch has been the current Officers and since they all retired from the NHS a number of years ago, the Officers have reluctantly decided to close the Branch. This was not a decision taken lightly, but the Officers felt it was the appropriate thing to do given the small membership of only 4 members. The Officers are willing to help the National Executive Board in any way they can in the future as they remain members of the Institute and wish the Institute every success in the future.
 
 
Patricia Dowling
Chairman of NI Branch