A breast cancer sufferer has called on health bosses in Sunderland to bring back surgery to the city’s Royal Hospital after an absence of nine months.
Operations at the Royal on those with the condition were stopped at the end of last year after a locum surgeon was axed because of a “misdemeanour”.
Chiefs blamed a lack of consultants for the decision to halt procedures, with new patients referred to other centres such as the Queen Elizabeth in Gateshead or hospitals in Newcastle, Durham, Stockton, Bishop Auckland, Wansbeck, Hexham, and even Middlesbrough for treatment.
Following discussions with bosses at the city’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the Royal chose to suspend operations after they were unable to recruit a replacement to fill the gap.
Now, pensioner Shirley Williams, who recently had a mastectomy to remove her right breast after the cancer she had in 2005 returned, has told the Echo that she and others battling the illness want to see operations re-instated in their home city.
Royal bosses have told the Echo that the suspension of the breast service to new referrals remains a “temporary” measure only and they hope to re-establish the service on Wearside soon.
Patients just don’t feel there is continuity of care when they are being sent to different places.Breast cancer patient Shirley Williams
After medics discovered a lump in Mrs Williams’ right beast this June, the mum-of-two and grandmother-of-five thought it was “a mistake” when she was sent an appointment for treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.
“I called up the hospital to inform them that I thought there had been a mistake as I live in Sunderland and am a previous Royal Hospital patient,” said the 68-year-old, who lives in the city’s East End with husband Gerry, 59.
“But I was informed that Sunderland are no longer carrying out breast surgery and this was being done at the QE, so I didn’t have a choice.”
Mrs Williams, a former Sunderland Social Services East Welfare Rights manager, said she was “distraught and very upset” that she could not have her operation at the Royal after staff there had been so helpful with her previous treatment.
“I’m used to just travelling just a few miles across the city and I’m sure many other people are,” she added.
“Patients just don’t feel there is continuity of care when they are being sent to different places. It causes more stress.
“We have a centre of excellence for breast cancer in Sunderland and people should be getting operated on there.
“The care package is fragmented and it can’t go on.”
Mrs Williams was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and underwent two lumptectomy operations.
Following chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, which caused her hair to fall out, she was discharged from treatment in 2010.
A spokeswoman for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “There remains a temporary suspension of the Trust’s breast service to new referrals only.
“We continue to work with our local commissioners, providers and other partners to ensure local residents have access to a high quality local breast service.
“This is clearly not an ideal situation, but the quality and safety of the breast service that is provided to local residents is of paramount importance.
“This is a complex process and we said that this would take some time (months, rather than weeks), but we are confident that a local service will be re-established.
“We appreciate the concerns and distress that this will undoubtedly be causing to patients but are working with commissioners to try and resolve this as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for NHS Sunderland CCG said: “We very much understand patients’ concerns and we are working with City Hospitals Sunderland and other partners to commission a new breast service in Sunderland.
“This is a complex process and will take some time, but the quality and safety of the service provided to patients is of paramount importance.
“Over the past few months, we have gathered comments and views from many patients, and this will help us to develop the best possible service.”