Improvements still need to be made in the quality and safety of breast cancer services on the eight designated hospital centres recently established as part of the Government's cancer centralisation plan, according to a new report.
It says some centres are not offering women quick enough appointments for testing in urgent cases.
The Health Information and Quality (HIQA) report said although significant progress had been made in providing high quality and safe services in the centres, improvements are needed to make this progress sustainable.
HIQA says the eight centres have been found to meet the key requirements of the national quality assurance standards for symptomatic breast disease.
Jon Billings of HIQA said this represents a major shift in the capacity and capability of the health system to deliver safer and better care for people with symptomatic breast disease, as compared to the position in the autumn of 2007, before the cancer care reorganisation started.
HIQA found that some centres had well-established clinical and managerial governance systems in place and others were at an early stage of development and in need of ongoing evaluation and support.
However, HIQA said it found that all the eight centres have in plce the fundamental requirements for safe and quality care, including triple assessment (three clinical specialty opinions) multidisciplinary teams, core staffing and equipment.
The report found that some centres fell below the required performance standards on offering appointments within two weeks for 95% of patients triaged as urgent.
HIQA said where this was the case, remedial action was being taken to ensure standards were being met.
It said some centres need time and support to establish successfully if patient safety and service quality are to be maintained and delivered on a stable and sustainable basis.
See also 'Report finds safety flaws'