Northern Ireland

Department of Health extends stroke and breast cancer consultations

Stroke consultant and breast cancer patient Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A radical shake-up of stroke and breast cancer assessment services is out for consultation

Public consultations on reshaping stroke and breast cancer services in Northern Ireland have been extended by the Department of Health (DH).

The consultations, due to end on 2 August, have now been extended until 30 August.

The department has proposed that the number of breast cancer assessment services be reduced from five to three.

Between three and five hyper-acute stroke units are proposed. Services are currently spread across 11 hospitals.

The proposals relating to breast cancer assessments would mean centres in Belfast's City Hospital and Craigavon would close.

The remaining three - at Altnagelvin, Antrim and the Ulster hospitals - would remain open.

Health chiefs argue that removing assessment services from the City Hospital will enable staff to concentrate on patients attending for other cancer treatments.

Image caption The assessment centres would be at the Altnagelvin, Antrim Area and Ulster hospitals

There are two models out for consultation in relation to stroke services.

A model with three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) includes the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Craigavon in the Southern Health Trust and Altnagelvin in the Western Trust.

Another option, which suggests five HASUs, would also include Antrim Area Hospital in the Northern Health Trust and the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Specialists argue that expertise is currently being spread too thinly and that is denying some people access to the best care.

Image copyright Kellie Armstrong
Image caption More people than expected turned up for a public meeting in Newtownards on Wednesday

On Wednesday, the department apologised for postponing a public engagement on reshaping stroke care because too many people turned up.

The meeting was due to take place in the Strangford Arms Hotel in Newtownards, County Down.

However, the department said the room could not accommodate the number who turned up, so it was re-scheduled.

The event will now be held in Queens Hall in the town on Monday, 29 July, at 19:00 BST.

The Department of Health said it had been using online pre-registration for the public consultation events to gauge demand and just seven people had pre-registered for the Newtownards event.

The statement added: "In Enniskillen, for instance, the level of demand led to us announcing a second event in the town before the first had been held."

Image of brain
Credit - Science Photo Library
Science Photo Library
What is proposed?

Three to five hyper-acute stroke units

  • Three-hospital modelRVH Belfast, Craigavon Area Hospital, Altnagelvin

  • Five-hospital modelThe above plus Antrim and South-West Acute Hospital

Source: Department of Health

The cancellation provoked an angry response on social media.

Alliance MLA for Strangford Kellie Armstrong, who called for an extension to the consultation period, told BBC News NI that the event had been a "shambles".

"To me it seemed like there were about 200 to 250 people there," she said.

She added the room was "full to busting and the foyer outside the room was also full".

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