Rallies held as review of stroke and cancer units is concluded
Health unions were joined by breast cancer and stroke survivors for a series of rallies at the weekend as a consultation on reshaping the services across Northern Ireland closed.
Proposals for a shake-up of the services provided by specialist breast cancer assessment and stroke units across the five health trusts were announced by the Department of Health earlier this year.
Under the plans, the number of breast cancer assessment units in Northern Ireland would be reduced from five to three, while between three and five hyper-acute stroke units were proposed. Services are currently spread across 11 hospitals.
The proposals provoked fierce reaction, and such was the level of public interest in the plans put forward by the department that the consultation period was extended to give extra time for responses to be made.
No official figure for the total number of responses received during the consultation period was available from the department.
However, it is understood that further details about the scope of the exercise as well as the timeline for any proposed changes to the way services are delivered, is expected to be made public within coming days.
The department is planning further public consultations in the coming months on the future of daycase surgery services and urgent and emergency care.
Its permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said change in health and social care was "both necessary and unavoidable".
"The choice is between managing change or letting it happen in an unplanned, chaotic fashion, with services becoming increasingly untenable and prone to collapse," he said.
"Managing change is the only responsible choice to make.
"This is the central message of the health transformation agenda. And while change is required to ensure care is reliable and of the highest standard, the key issue is that we need to make the right changes in the right way."