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High Peak MP slams 'appalling' withdrawal of breast cancer service

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust says its breast surgery service has experienced an increase in referrals.
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust says its breast surgery service has experienced an increase in referrals.

MP Ruth George has said she is ‘appalled’ after Stepping Hill Hospital decided to suspend urgent and routine breast cancer referrals from patients in the High Peak.

According to Mrs George, the area’s GPs were told the news at the end of last month and the initial three-month ban on High Peak referrals started just a few days later.

The decision means that GP practices in the High Peak and across north Derbyshire cannot refer patients for either routine or urgent two-week wait breast cancer pathways to Stepping Hill, the Labour politician told the Buxton Advertiser.

Mrs George, who was elected High Peak MP last year, said: “I and local GP practices in High Peak are appalled that such a vital service can be withdrawn at such short notice and with no consultation.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.

“It is especially worrying at the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month when both women and men are urged to check themselves and visit their GP if they have concerns.

“People who are very worried need to be able to see a specialist as soon as possible.

“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.

“Other hospitals in Chesterfield and Manchester are more than an hour’s drive away and difficult to get to on public transport.

“Vulnerable patients will find it almost impossible to get there if they don’t have their own car, a situation which is only likely to deteriorate as winter pressures escalate.

“It is yet another sign of the immense pressure which the NHS is facing, coming after the announcement by Macclesfield Hospital that it too has stopped providing some services for High Peak residents.”

In a joint statement, NHS Stockport CCG and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust said: “At present the breast surgery service at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has experienced an increase in referrals and also has some vacancies within the service.

“These two factors in combination have meant that waiting times have increased beyond the normal two-week wait.

“As a result we have asked that residents from outside of Stockport are referred to alternative services to ensure that all patients can access care as quickly as possible and to help reduce pressure on local hospital services.”

Mrs George said she had contacted North Derbyshire CCG to ask what alternative arrangements have been put in place so that patients from the High Peak can be referred to an appropriate breast care provider, especially for urgent cases.