Alliance concerned at lack of scrutiny for breast assessment and stroke reconfiguration services

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said she is concerned about the lack of transparency around the reconfiguration of breast assessment and stroke services.

The South Belfast MLA said the current consultation process into the service did not allow for clear scrutiny of the proposed changes.

“Alliance has stated its clear and strong support for transformation of health and social care. Unlike others, we will not be populist on this issue in the quest for local votes – we entirely share Professor Bengoa’s analysis we must move away from the focus on structures and the ‘burning platform’ analogy is accurate in determining inaction is not an option. If we value a health and social care service which is not dependent on people’s ability to pay, we need transformation and we need it swiftly.

“However, we are not clear the current consultation processes, particularly around breast assessment and stroke services, are proceeding with sufficient robustness and transparency. We are unclear about how decisions have been made, and it seems bizarre consultations were launched just as the civil service entered a period of self-determined ‘purdah’, unable to meet elected representatives to enable at least some democratic scrutiny of the decision-making process.

“For example, it seems bizarre that a decision has been made to place the Breast Assessment Centre at the Ulster Hospital when so many related services and all the specialist expertise exist at the Belfast City Hospital site. With the Breast Reconstruction Centre, the Cancer Research and Cell Biology Centre and all the specialist surgeons at the City, why would Assessment suddenly move elsewhere? This runs plainly contrary to the Bengoa principles.

“There is no evidence from minutes of meetings as to why adherence to the Bengoa principles) seems to have been suspended in this instance, yet we find ourselves unable to find clear answers by any other route.

“It should be emphasised stroke reconfiguration is a strategic decision to deliver improved specialist services, but breast assessment seems driven primarily by staff and budget shortages. If this view is unfair, then that only demonstrates the need for proper transparency and scrutiny.

“Ultimately, this process would be made a lot easier if the parties with the largest mandates were willing to take on the responsibilities which come with them. In the meantime, consultation processes must be based on transparency and scrutiny. There are questions here over why consultations are taking place when they are, and why decisions were made the way they are. We need at least some democratic accountability to ensure the public fully understands and accepts the way forward on transformation.”