A breast cancer patient has set up an action group calling on health bosses to bring back surgery to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Operations on those with the condition were stopped at the hospital at the end of last year after a locum surgeon was axed because of a “misdemeanour”.
A lack of consultants was blamed 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.
A letter sent to patients announced two breast care nurses employed by City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust left last week to take up new roles with another organisation.
The news has angered breast cancer sufferer Shirley Williams, 68, who has now set up the action group ‘Sunderland Royal Hospital Breast Care SOS: Save Our Service’ where fellow patients can meet to discuss efforts to retaining the service.
Mrs Williams, a former Sunderland Social Services welfare rights manager, recently had a mastectomy to remove her right breast after the cancer she had in 2005 returned.
She said: “The letter did not say these nurses will be replaced. Patients are distressed by this loss of much-needed support.
“They are feeling distressed after receiving such excellent specialist nurse care and support in the past.
“The action group is encouraging breast care patients who are affected by the breast care changes in Sunderland Royal to come and have their say and highlight their circumstances and experiences.”
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 appreciate this will be distressing for patients who will be required to receive treatment at other local hospitals and apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
“We would like to reiterate that the decision to suspend the service was made in the interest of patient safety as we were not able to provide a consultant led service.
“We continue to work with our local commissioners, providers and other partners to try to resolve this issue. However, we know there is no quick solution and apologise for this.”
NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions services from hospitals on behalf of Wearsiders, is looking at how breast services can be delivered in future to best meet the needs of patients.
The organisation has undertaken a number of patient engagement events to help shape the development of a new service specification, which is hoped to be in place next year.
The action group are holding a meeting on Wednesday, October 21, at Pennywell Community Centre at 6.30pm to discuss retaining and re-instating services at Sunderland as soon as possible.