Breast Assessment Centres To Be Reduced To Three Locations

Appointments for breast assessments will soon be available at less hospital sites in Northern Ireland under new proposals to consolidate services and reduce waiting times.

The Department of Health has launched a consultation on the plan which would see the service focused to three locations- Altnagelvin Hospital in L'Derry, the Antrim Area Hospital and a site in greater Belfast, likely to be the Ulster Hospital.

It comes amid a rapid review of breast surgery, with waiting times for breast assessments set to worsen as demand increases.

Assessment centres provide a 'one stop' clinic for patients. They deal with referrals for breast symptoms which may be suggestive of cancer, known as symptomatic referrals. Also covered are referrals from breast screening mammography tests that indicated the need for follow-up assessment.

The overhaul aims to establish a model of care which will ensure high quality, safe, sustainable, accessible and timely services.
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Richard Pengelly, Department of Health Permanent Secretary, said: "We have listened carefully to patient voices and it is very clear that timely access to care is the overriding priority. The way breast assessment services are currently delivered is becoming increasingly fragile.

"Staffing challenges are an important factor behind these pressures and demand for care, including urgent referrals for suspected cancer, is increasing.

"Sticking with the current model would mean ongoing and worsening vulnerability, with deteriorating waiting times for assessment. That would simply be unacceptable.

"Consolidating care on three sites means we can provide durable and quality services, for the benefit of patients and staff."

A centralised appointment booking system is also planned, as well as a regional Breast Assessment Network to shape and support provision for the people of Northern Ireland.

The consultation opened today, Monday 25 March and will run for 12 weeks until Monday 17 June.


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