NIPSA welcomes the opportunity to give its views on this consultation, given not only the importance of the consultation and the widespread public interest on an issue with the potential to affect 50% of the population, but also the fact that this is one of the first service consultative processes to emerge from the TIG/TAB structures being run by the Department in the absence of any democratic oversight.

As a key HSC stakeholder NIPSA recognises that proposals such as those contained in the consultation document can be highly sensitive when considering change to better meet the needs of the population of Northern Ireland (NI). In submitting this response, we wish to emphasise, NIPSA attended all public consultation meetings and our response is based on the views expressed at these meetings by professionals, service users, NIPSA members who work across the Health Service and Public Sector generally, and critically the service user experience of the many, many NIPSA members and their families who have accessed the services being consulted upon.

NIPSA wishes to begin by placing on record our appreciation at the testimony of the many courageous women and members of the public who attended the consultation meetings and spoke so passionately about their experiences and services they received before, during and after their treatment. The strength, compassion and pain contained within the stories of their journeys was truly extraordinary to listen to, and NIPSA has attempted to capture some of these views in our response.

The strength of comment did not just reflect the testimony of service users. They reflected the excellence of the service experience HSC staff at all levels had shown to them as women, as families, as service users and as tax payers. Each of these testimonies is a stark reminder of the power of the social compact between the public and the NHS, and requires the most careful consideration by the Department of Health.

NIPSA’s view is that this populations appreciation of excellence in service user experience, rather than the frankly self-serving platitudes on the reality of rationing that has underpinned previous consultation exercises should be clearly reflected in the consultative approach taken by the Department. Any change implemented must in NIPSAs view build and invest on a platform to further improve service user experience and outcomes in how Breast Assessment Services are structured across NI.

As Northern Ireland’s biggest public sector trade union, NIPSA is cautious about the promises made in public consultations due largely to our member’s experience of historic failed approaches of a bright new dawn for public services that never materialised and instead were counter-productive. NIPSA Branches and Officials, along with our other trade union colleagues, have participated on numerous occasions across all five Health Trust’s on modernisation projects and reconfiguration of services at local level, so formal consultations on how services are delivered are not new to us. It is reasonable to say some of these projects have been challenging and have not had support from our members, whilst others have had a clear focus on improved service delivery.

Click on the link below to download a full copy of the response.