Quality assurance (QA) is a fundamental part of all screening programmes. The aim of QA in the Breast Screening Programme is to maintain acceptable standards and continuously improve the performance of all aspects of breast screening in order to ensure that women have access to a high quality service wherever they reside.
Quality assurance helps to ensure that the benefits of breast screening outweigh the harms. It is a continuous process that is carried out externally by the Public Health Agency and internally by the breast screening units and HSC Trusts.
Core QA activities carried out by the PHA include:
- Monitoring and review of programme management and delivery
- Monitoring performance against agreed standards
- Organising a rolling programme of formal QA Visits to the Breast Screening Units
- Review and monitoring of Trust’s action plans to implement recommendations arising from QA visits
- Adverse incident review and advice
- Providing support and advice to Trusts and breast screening units.
The quality assurance function is underpinned by an organised structure of public health and professional leads, supported by programme managers, information and administrative staff. Individual QA Professional Leads within the Breast Screening Programme are appointed through an interview process, with agreed job descriptions and sessions dedicated to the role, in keeping with the PHA protocol for tenure of QA Lead posts. They are responsible to the Public Health Consultant Lead for Breast Screening and accountable to the Assistant Director for Population Screening and Professional Standards, PHA.
The Role of QA Leads
It is the role of the QA leads to assist with the coordination of quality assurance activities for the Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme and provide professional advice to the Public Health Agency on issues relevant to the commissioning of the screening programme within their area of expertise. They work collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders to quality assure the programme. Each QA Lead chairs a Quality Assurance Sub Group for their speciality. These groups play an important part in the Quality Assurance Advisory Structure and work together to ensure safe and effective breast screening continues to be available to the eligible population. This includes working to ensure relevant national and local standards are met and appropriate continuous quality improvement processes are in place.
The List of Professional QA Leads
There are 7 QA Leads in the Breast Screening Programme covering each discipline involved in delivering the service. They are employed by HSC Trusts in their day to day role and payed sessionally by PHA for their role as QA Lead.
|QA Lead for Administration||Denise Park, Office Manager, SHSCT|
|QA Lead for Medical Physics||Dr Adam Workman, Medical Physicist, NI Medical Physics Agency|
|QA Lead for Nursing||Vacant (currently covered by Brenda O’Kane Specialist Breast Care Nurse, BHSCT)|
|QA Lead for Pathology||Dr Shauna Casey, Consultant Pathologist, BHSCT|
|QA Lead for Radiography||Marietta Connor, Superintendent Radiographer, WHSCT|
|QA Lead for Radiology||Dr Elaine Davis, Consultant Radiologist, BHSCT|
|QA Lead for Surgery||Mr Gareth Irwin, Consultant General & Breast Surgeon, BHSCT|
The Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme includes in its Quality Assurance Programme a QA visit to each of the four Breast Screening Units in rotation. The process for these visits is based on national, and local guidance and can be found here Breast screening: programme specific operating model – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)