NHS closes Buxton Colposcopy Clinic amid recruitment crisis

Derbyshire NHS chiefs say they have been forced to relocate Buxton’s Colposcopy Clinic to Chesterfield as they have been unable to replace the now-retired consultant who previously ran the weekly clinic.
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The colposcopy service at Buxton Hospital had been delivered by University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Trust (UHDB) since 2015 – the only outreach service in the county, with patients elsewhere attending major hospitals.

On the retirement of the lead clinician in April, UHDB informed Joined Up Care Derbyshire (JUCD) – responsible for commissioning services – that it would be ending the contract.

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A JUCD spokesperson said: “Women from the area will still be able to access colposcopy appointments as they need them in nearby hospitals and clinics, although we appreciate that some may need to travel further.”

NHS bosses say they have been unable to recruit the necessary staff to keep Buxton's colposcopy clinic open.NHS bosses say they have been unable to recruit the necessary staff to keep Buxton's colposcopy clinic open.
NHS bosses say they have been unable to recruit the necessary staff to keep Buxton's colposcopy clinic open.

According to a report submitted to Derbyshire County Council, the clinic received around 300 referrals a year: either patients presenting their GP with symptoms for concern, or whose smear tests – part of the national screening programme – showed abnormal, potentially cancerous cells.

NHS England Public Health Commissioning, responsible for the screening programme, reviewed the Buxton clinic in 2021 and recommended its closure due to the dependence on a single clinician.

The report by Monica McAlindon, JUCD’s head of cancer commissioning, notes: “UHDB have attempted to build this clinic into work plans of existing staff but it is not feasible due to impact of two hours’ travel time.

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“UHDB have also struggled with recruitment and been unable to recruit to this vacancy. If UHDB were to continue this clinic, it would negatively impact a greater proportion of patients at the UHDB site and further widen the inequity gap.”

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The NHS is currently struggling to staff gynaecology services both regionally and nationally, leaving patients waiting years for treatment related to debilitating conditions such as endometriosis.

Following a patient campaign, in 2022 JUCD acknowledged issues with High Peak gynaecology services and said it was working to improve them.

However, the clinic’s closure will mean patients with confirmed abnormal cells now face an hour-long drive to Chesterfield Royal Hospital – or even longer journeys via public transport. GP referrals may still be able to choose any available location.

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According to the report, Chesterfield Royal bosses said they were unable to deliver a Buxton clinic, while counterparts in Stockport and Macclesfield said they could not accommodate Derbyshire patients on the screening programme pathway.

JUCD says it considers the new arrangements temporary and will monitor them via data analysis and patient surveys.

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The spokesperson said: “We have assessed the impact of the service change and will continue to listen to patients and other stakeholders over the coming months.

“We strongly encourage local women to attend all regular invites to cervical screening and any follow-up appointment as normal, which are the best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer.”

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However, the decision has been questioned by High Peak MP Robert Largan, who said: “Buxton’s colposcopy clinic provides an absolutely vital service which has undoubtedly saved many lives by detecting potential cancers very early on.

“I’m worried that, with the clinic no longer being local, some women will be unable to attend appointments and very serious conditions like cervical cancer could go untreated. I hope we can find a solution to keep this vital facility open.”

  • Last week we published a headline which said that the "NHS closes Buxton cervical cancer screening clinic amid recruitment crisis" and we want to make it clear that cervical screening services remain unaffected by this change, it is actually the Colposcopy Clinic that is now not being delivered locally in Buxton.