Proposed changes that were meant to be enforced today regarding the entitlements a woman could avail of post-mastectomy have been blocked by the Health Minister Simon Harris, who says he had not been aware of the proposed changes until yesterday.

He has deferred the plan and asked for the HSE to submit an “enhanced plan” to him that does not negatively affect women who are already coping with cancer.

As it stands currently, women are supplied with a breast prosthesis and are provided with two surgical bras. Moreover, if she has a medical card she is entitled to two surgical bras each year, and if required, a new prosthesis.

If the new policy had come into action today, it would mean that women would not be given surgical bras, other than the ones provided upon leaving the hospital. It also means that for one breast prosthesis every two years, patients will only be entitled to an allowance of €67.50. There was also a proposed change put in place regarding the supply of hairpieces and wigs, which would be provided once-off, with a maximum voucher of €440 being provided to purchase a hairpiece or wig.

Minister Harris today says that yesterday was the first time he heard of the proposed changes, and says that he would like to assure women that they will not need to worry about losing services.

In a statement Minister Harris says “Yesterday I heard of planned changes to supports for patients with breast cancer. This was the first I heard of these changes.

“When I became aware of the proposed changes, I intervened and their introduction is now deferred.

“Whilst I understand that the health service is working with a range of stakeholders, most importantly patients, to try to improve the supports throughout the country, this cannot take place before plans are put in place to ensure there is no hardship or reduction of supports for patients who are already receiving a particular level of service.

“I have asked the HSE to come back to me with an enhanced plan that doesn’t adversely affect women who are already coping with cancer. I want to ensure that they are not subjected to additional stress and worry about losing services.

“It is essential that every woman in this country in receipt of post-operative and cancer treatment supports continues to receive them. I want to be very clear that there cannot be any cuts in this area.”