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Prioritising recommendations for rare disease progress across Northern Ireland

Image showing a workflow proposing an expert centre for rare disease in 2020

Rare diseases are a major public health concern, cumulatively affecting ~6% of the population.  In 2013, the UK strategy for rare disease was published[1] followed by the Northern Ireland rare disease implementation plan (NIRDIP) in 2015[2].  In response to priority actions identified within the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Implementation Plan, three complementary (confidential) commissioned reports were submitted to the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Implementation Group (January 2020) describing recommendations for action.

This report describes outcomes from a focused, knowledge exchange workshop that was held with multidisciplinary stakeholders to help prioritise existing recommendations across all three documents and generate a report to inform policy and practice for future rare disease progress.  A NI rare disease implementation / action plan is being discussed for beyond 2020, which may be informed by the outcomes of this workshop. 

Initially, individual recommendations were consolidated to minimise duplication between each report.  It was accepted that the consistently top-ranked recommendations remain the top 3 priorities for rare disease progress in NI: (1) to develop a national registration service, (2) to develop a dedicated online information hub, and (3) to develop a role to appoint a dedicated information coordinator.  Six recommendations already have work underway, so workshop participants ranked the remaining recommendations as priorities for action within the short, medium and longer term prior to workshop discussions.  This provided a framework for initial discussions during the workshop.

Following considerable discussion as to the best way to prioritise recommendations, workshop participants ranked 34 recommendations by focused themes with a focus on ‘registry’, ‘information and communication’, ‘training and education’, as well as a cross-cutting focus.  Prioritisation included ranking on short-, medium- and longer-term goals.  However, it was proposed that there may be a better approach to generate progress for our rare disease community. 

The final approach taken by workshop participants was to consolidate recommendations under the proposed NIRADCAR (Northern Ireland RAre Diseases & Congenital Abnormalities Registry) and information hub within a Rare Disease Centre.  Streamlined priorities with suggested deliverables have been proposed to support rare disease progress within Northern Ireland.


The full report is available here: Workshop report, May 2020 for prioritizing recommendations

This research was supported by funding from the ESRC( as reported in our earlier maximising rare disease research news item

Photo: AJ McKnight
AJ McKnight
AJ McKnight, Centre for Public Health
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