Anger at proposals to shut breast service

Large crowd attends consultation at Craigavon Civic Centre on proposals to shut Breast Screening Service in Craigavon Hospital
Large crowd attends consultation at Craigavon Civic Centre on proposals to shut Breast Screening Service in Craigavon Hospital

A large and, often angry audience, confronted health chiefs over proposals to shut the Breast cancer assessment services at Craigavon Hospital.

Several hundred people, some cancer sufferers, attended a public consultation at Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night and voiced grave concerns at the possibility of the service closing.

Health staff also shared misgivings and frustrations about proposals to close the service.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride received an intense grilling and heard deep frustration from the audience during Monday night’s consultation.

It follows moves to cut the number of breast assessment units from five to three, with both Craigavon Area Hospital and Belfast City Hospital’s units earmarked for closure.

Politicians from all the political parties attended voicing concerns about any potential closure of the unit.

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said: “The strength of feeling and the arguments presented showed how strongly the people of Portadown, Craigavon and surrounding areas feel about the proposal to close breast assessment services at Craigavon Area Hospital.

“Craigavon Area Hospital offers a fantastic service with first class staff, covering a largely rural community. Users of this service stretch up into the Clogher Valley area, therefore for any service to be stripped from the South and West of NI would put patients living within those areas at a disadvantage. Many service users would have to travel longer distances, at a stressful and worrying time.

“I would urge the Department of Health to take this into consideration alongside demographic evidence which shows the ABC area as one of the areas which will experience significant population growth.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We have emphasised that if anyone has better evidence-based proposals on ensuring reliable quality care across the province, then we want to hear from them.

“We are clear that no change is not a realistic or responsible option when it comes to the future of breast assessment care.

“Stretching services too thinly over too many sites means leaving them vulnerable to collapse when staff members leave or are unexpectedly absent.

“Without changes, increasing numbers of patients will face long anxious delays in finding out if they have cancer. That would not be acceptable.”