Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Southern Trust refutes MP’s cancer screening claim

 The Southern Trust has refuted claims by Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady that the region is at risk of losing vital breast cancer screening services under a recommendation being considered to centralise the service at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald. 

The MP said the recommendation to relocate the service to the Ulster Hospital is part of a move to establish a single site to serve the greater Belfast area, with consolidation of three service locations onto a single site there.  Such a move would see some women from the Southern Trust area making at least a one hundred-mile round trip to undergo the potentially life-saving test. 

 Speaking out against the proposal, Mr Brady said he has contacted the CEO of the Southern Trust to seek clarification on the issue and to outline his concerns over the impact such a move would have on waiting lists and travelling times for women in the Southern Trust.  He claims the proposal has been made “without consultation with staff and that  no representative from the Southern Trust has been interviewed as part of the review”.

“I have  written to Shane Devlin CEO of the Southern Trust raising concerns, firstly making him aware that this has been brought to my attention and also to ask him for some information regarding this proposal,” he said.

”Logistically  this would not be practical as people in the Southern Trust area would have to travel to Dundonald. Another concern is that as one facility would now be servicing three service locations, waiting lists would obviously increase”.

Underlining the importance of early diagnosis in breast cancer, the Sinn Fein MP said increased waiting lists “could have a detrimental effect on patients with a diagnosis”.

“The geographical, journey and travel issues, patient mobility and service accessibility are also key major concerns for many,” he said, calling for a “comprehensive discussion with input from all stakeholders” before any decision is taken about removing the life-saving service from the Southern Trust area.

Meanwhile, in response to a request for clarification from The Examiner, a spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust declared there are no plans at present to change the breast screening service in the region.

The spokesperson said: “The Breast Screening Service is part of the National Breast Screening Programme and provides a free breast screening service for eligible well women throughout the area.  In the Southern Trust, screening is provided via our specialist digital mobile units. They rotate between Lurgan Hospital, Dromalane, Newry, Armagh Community Hospital, Banbridge Health Centre and South Tyrone Hospitals.

“There are currently no plans to change the Breast Screening Service in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.”