Relief for High Peak patients as Stepping Hill to reinstate breast cancer referrals

Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport.
Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport.

Breast cancer care referrals from the High Peak are due to be re-introduced at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital following a three-month suspension.

Routine or urgent two-week wait appointments were sent to alternative hospitals from October due to staff shortages and increases in referrals.

Ruth George, MP for the High Peak

Ruth George, MP for the High Peak

It is understood during the last three months most High Peak patients were treated at Macclesfield District General Hospital or others in Greater Manchester.

High Peak MP Ruth George said she was pleased that breast cancer care would remain at Stepping Hill for constituents in the short term, but that the reorganisation of Greater Manchester health services raised a question in the long-term.

She said: “For me it’s important that breast cancer care remains in the local area as much as possible - I want to make sure it stays at Stepping Hill.

“There is some concern with regards to breast cancer care at district hospitals such as Stepping Hill and Tameside due to the reorganisation in Greater Manchester.

“The super hospitals such as Manchester Royal Infirmary will always be looking to increase services they provide, but it’s important to look at travel costs and the ability of patients who are sometimes too ill to be able to travel very far.”

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust confirmed Stepping Hill will begin taking referrals from High Peak patients at the end of January.

In a letter to Stepping Hill governors, Paul Buckingham, from the trust, said: “Our breast service experienced an increase in referrals and some workforce pressures. These two factors led to waiting times increasing beyond the target two-week wait.

“Patient safety is our top priority so we asked that residents from outside of Stockport were referred to alternative services.”

When the suspension of referrals was announced at the end of September, GPs were given just a few days’ notice - prompting a shocked response from Ruth George MP.

She stated at the time: “I and local GP practices in the High Peak are appalled that such a vital service can be withdrawn at such short notice and with no consultation.

“This ban risks undoing years of work to combat breast cancer by encouraging women to check themselves, to have mammograms and to go to their GP.

“This ban by Stepping Hill – which is the easiest hospital to reach from much of High Peak, especially for people who rely on public transport – will make it harder to get to see a specialist.”