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Deep concerns over breast screening service

22 July 2005

Deep concerns over breast screening service

Labour's decision to split the Auckland-Northland region's breast screening programme into three should be based on quality and price as well as improving access and coverage, says National Party Health spokesman Paul Hutchison.

"Health Minister Annette King should provide convincing evidence that there was sound reason to stop the contract with Breast Screen Auckland and North, which has provided state-funded mammograms for hundreds of thousands of women over the past six years," says Dr Hutchison.

Dr Hutchison says the Ministry of Health carried out a protracted two-year study into the change plan, and was accused of distorting the facts. While it was known that there were personality problems at issue, it would be tragic to fragment a quality programme for ideological reasons, he says.

"What really matters is that, with the limited resources available, women are provided with an effective and efficient system that they can trust and rely on.

"While the Ministry has concerns regarding recruitment in the region and Northland women having to travel to Auckland for assessment, all the issues should be resolved in an equitable way. Annette King should fully disclose why she has been prepared to fragment a high quality service that has had close qualitative scrutiny.

"Labour has put billions extra into health, with very little to show. It is important to have choice and benchmarking so that New Zealand women receive the best breast screening service within the resources available.

"In the Otago area there is also huge concern that the programme is providing inadequate coverage. Even the local Labour MP is calling for an inquiry into its failings.

"There are deep concerns that the fragmentation of the programme could result in cost increases and duplication of services. There are also concerns that the changeover has not been well planned and could result in less screening and compromised quality," says Dr Hutchison.


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