A breast cancer service for Wearside patients will begin within weeks following a six-month delay - all because of building work problems.
Operations on those with the deadly condition were stopped at Sunderland Royal Hospital at the end of 2014 after a locum surgeon was axed because of a “misdemeanour”.
A lack of consultants was blamed for the decision to halt procedures at the site, 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.
A new service to treat those from Sunderland with the illness, but not including surgery, was due to begin in April this year, but failed to materialise.
Health chiefs have now admitted that the delay has been down to building works at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre, where the services will be offered, but say the issue was “beyond” their control.
The new service, which will be operated by staff from Gateshead Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland, was originally expected to open in April but has been affected by delays to building works and the relocation of existing services at the site.
Shirley Williams, of the Save Our Service campaign group, says delays will have caused more stress for patients.
“The building work should have been completed in April,” said Mrs Williams, 69, of the East End, who is battling her second bout of breast cancer.
“It’s inconvenienced a lot of patients who would like to have these services in the city.
“People are still contacting our group to see when things will start, but at least now we’ve been told it will be October.”
NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group’s director of contracting, Scott Watson, said: “The service will bring together the region’s specialist skills to provide a ‘one stop’ diagnostic facility and follow up services for patients with breast cancer issues.
“We understand that this is frustrating news for patients, but this delay was due to issues beyond our control and relates to the building works required at the Grindon Lane site.
“We are sorry for this delay but we are confident that the new facility will provide an excellent service with the latest state-of-the-art mammography and ultrasound equipment.
“We would like to thank everyone who has shared their views over the past year, as this has given us a real insight in patients’ experiences and helped us to design the new service.”
Initially, the service will be open only to new patients, but in several months’ time existing patients will have the option to either continue to attend their existing follow up clinics or transfer to Sunderland.
Specialist breast cancer nurses will support the new service, with patients diagnosed with cancer having access to a named nurse as before.
Patients will also be able to access the breast cancer nurses via a dedicated phone line.