All referrals to breast clinic seen in 14 days

Altnagelvin is bucking the trend when it comes to waiting times at their breast clinic.
Altnagelvin is bucking the trend when it comes to waiting times at their breast clinic.

All of the patients referred as urgent cases to Altnagelvin’s breast clinic in February were seen within 14 days of the referral, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Western Health and Social care Trust Board, Teresa Molloy Director of Performance and Service management, says Altnagelvin continues to have a remarkable performance considering the waiting times in Northern Ireland as a whole over the past year.

Her remarks come after it was recently revealed how in Northern Ireland, the number of breast cancer patients seen within the target time has dropped alarmingly in the past 12 months. And less than half of suspected cases had a first assessment with a specialist inside 14 days in December.

Trust board members were told that staff at Western Trust hospitals felt demoralised when the regional statistics were reported in the press, with no reference to the performance in referral rates at Altnagelvin.

Trust chair Gerard Guckian said the message about referral rates had to go out.

“This is about giving confidence to the population and prospective patients who may worry about it,” he said. “We have to give that assurance to the public. At the Western Trust they should have 100% confidence that we are meeting the targets.”

The Trust chair said he had also read about how a new breast surgeon had been appointed to the Belfast Trust.

“It makes you wonder, do you have to fail to get investment?” he said. “We are succeeding in meeting our targets despite the low resources, we want to be rewarded for succeeding.”

Geraldine McKay, director of acute hospitals said an extra clinic had been put to ensure that the 14 day target was not breached in February. She revealed that currently on the staff they have two consultants and one locum.

“We need all those resources to put on a clinic,” she said. “There has been a huge commitment made by staff.”

Non executive director Dr. George McIlroy paid tribute to the staff adding that when he heard of the regional figures he couldn’t believe they were so bad considering the work that was being done in the Western Trust.

Earlier this year it was revealed how a senior surgeon and radiologist cut their holiday time short to help cope with increased numbers in Altnagelvin’s breast clinic in November when they had 20 breaches of the 14 day rule. However Teresa Molloy said this had been unprecedented and the clinic had experienced increased pressure as a result of an awareness campaign on breast cancer during the month of October.