The more regional breast-screening schemes fall into
private hands, the harder it gets to maintain a world-class
screening programme, University of Otago cancer screening
authority Associate Prof Brian Cox says.
This week, the Southern District Health Board said it was
consulting staff on a proposal to relinquish its contract
with the National Screening Unit to provide the service for
Otago and Southland women.
Health boards and private providers contract with the
National Screening Unit to run regional services. Outside
Otago and Southland, South Island breast-screening is
provided privately, but in the North Island, it is run almost
entirely by health boards.
Prof Cox said the most robust overseas screening programmes
were in public hands.
New Zealand's regionalised health system did not suit public
health initiatives like screening, which worked best on a
Private providers were capable of running the services, but
as more areas privatised and the system became more
fragmented, the goal of a strong standardised service became
harder to achieve.
''I think [privatisation] is of concern; it's important it
doesn't jeopardise the effectiveness of the programme.''
Ministry of Health national services purchasing director Jill
Lane yesterday said the National Screening Unit was concerned
about the long-term viability of the southern service.
The unit had worked closely with the Southern District Health
Board to address problems, including a lack of specialist
staff who could work to its required standard.
''To ensure the quality, reliability and sustainability of
the service, the radiology team in BreastScreen Counties
Manukau DHB has been supporting the service, but this is an
''The [Southern] DHB and NSU share common concerns about the
long-term sustainability of the service, given the workload
pressures on the small breast-screening team, and
particularly on how to ensure women can continue to have
confidence in the services they receive.''
The board will announce its decision to staff on October 8.