Stroke services talks continue

Stroke services talks continue

7 August 2019

PUBLIC consultation on reshaping two critically important health services has been extended until the end of August.

The Department of Health has confirmed that local people have until the end of next month to make known their views on radical plans to reshape stroke and breast assessment services across the Province.

Health chiefs say they have extended public consultation on both services for a second time as a result of the number of requests they have received to do so.

The Department of Health insists that it has repeatedly made it clear that it wants as many people as possible to take part in what it describes as “these important consultations” and that extending the consultation period until August 30 underlines that commitment.

Several weeks ago, Downpatrick racecourse was the venue for one of a series of public consultation events on reshaping stroke services across the Province. However, no local venue has been chosen to debate the future of breast assessment care which is an issue of concern for local health campaigners.

Health chiefs say that reshaping stroke proposals will involve a new network of so-called hyperacute stroke units, ensuring that patients have access to the best possible care in regional centres of excellence.

They also insist that the future direction of travel will lead to better outcomes for patients with increased emphasis on ambulance provision.

Campaigners are keen to see the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick used as a so-called step down facility to assist stroke patients with their recovery after emergency treatment. They contend that the hospital is ideally placed and has an excellent medical team to deal with stroke patients.

However, campaigners said building an entire strategy for stroke treatment and recovery and to sell that to the rural community on the strength of an improved ambulance service, which the local area has required for more than three decades and never been able to get, is particularly concerning.

There are also concerns locally that the redesign of breast assessment services could see breast cancer services withdrawn from the Craigavon Area and Belfast City hospitals — services which women from across South Down have used.

While five venues were chosen for people to air their views on the future of this service, none of the meetings took place in in the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area.

Health officials insist that under the breast assessment proposals, services would be consolidated on three hospital sites, with the plans to consolidate breast assessment services reflecting recommendations from a project board involving clinicians from across the health and social care system.

They say breast screening services are not being changed, while a separate, clinically led review of breast treatment services will be launched in the coming weeks.

Health campaigners say they are “disappointed” that no public consultation meeting on the future of breast assessment services was held in the Down area and that a Freedom of Information request to find out why yielded little in terms of a response. They were told that venues has been chosen “internally” by the Department of Health.

Campaigners have confirmed that they are currently seeking further clarification, explaining that the breast cancer is issue a particularly important one for a lot of local women, especially those who live in East Down.

Further information on reshaping breast assessment services is available on, while for planned changes to stroke service provision visit