The Breast Service at Noble’s Hospital is to hold additional clinics over the next few weeks in an important effort to reduce a backlog of patients waiting for a symptomatic appointment.
The initiative begins this weekend, with support from the local Breast team and a locum Consultant Radiologist who has been engaged to provide extra cover. An additional 30 clinic slots will be offered across Saturday and Sunday, and run for the following four or five weekends.
The extra clinics will reduce the waiting time for appointments for those people concerned about breast symptoms and assist efforts to meet the target two week wait between initial referral and the patient being seen in hospital for the first time.
Referrals to the symptomatic clinics have increased significantly since June 2020, and are outstripping the number of slots available. The service offers a one-stop clinic model which involves an assessment by the breast consultant team, diagnosis and potentially a biopsy. While this approach offers the patient a number of investigations and clinical views at a single appointment, the staffing required has at times proved challenging, impacting waiting times.
Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford said:
‘We are acting to address a pressing issue. Our target two week wait aims to provide a timely, high quality service – which patients rightly expect. The extra clinics are an interim measure while we look to find a longer term solution.
‘A number of unconnected factors have contributed to the problem. During the pandemic last spring we reduced face to face clinics and our breast screening service was suspended for a time. There is a significant amount of work in both areas for our team to address, on top of new referrals. We will require the services of a locum to help with the weekend clinics, and these have taken time to confirm due to the specialist nature and a shortage of these roles in the UK.
Minister Ashford concluded:
‘We are working with a number of the Island’s breast cancer charities and I thank them for their support. We share their passionate concern to provide patients with timely appointments.’
The Patient Information Centre will be in contact with all those who are awaiting an appointment to book them into the earliest available clinic slot. The position will continue to be reviewed to ensure patients are being seen in a timely manner, meanwhile the Department continues to explore options for an expanded, sustainable service for the longer term.
The Breast Screening service is fully operational in a safe environment and screenings are continuing alongside the additional symptomatic clinic capacity being provided. There have been a number of cancellations for the clinic and members of the public are encouraged to attend their breast screening appointment when it is offered.