Pandemic and surge in referrals after Sarah Harding cancer diagnosis delay appointments at Bassetlaw breast clinic

The pandemic along with a surge in referrals in the wake of Sarah Harding’s cancer battle have caused a delay to appointments at Bassetlaw Hospital’s breast clinic, health bosses say.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 1:05 pm

A concerned reader, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the Guardian and said she had been waiting four weeks for her appointment at the clinic after finding a lump on her breast.

The woman said she had contacted the Patient Advice and Liaison Service who advised her appointments are behind due to GPs not seeing patients and referring them straight to the breast clinic.

"If that’s the case, what are the hospital doing about it?” said the woman. "It’s stressful waiting for two weeks, never mind the extra two weeks on top.

(Left) Covid means the time taken between appointments is longer, which makes it harder to work through the waiting list (Right) Sarah Harding's terminal breast cancer diagnosis has seen more people with health concerns seeking help, but unfortunately this has caused an inevitable increase in waiting times. Photos by Getty.

“This is totally unacceptable if there is a chance the lump on your breast is cancer.”

The Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it always sees an increase in referrals whenever a celebrity announces that they have cancer - and this has happened in the wake of the sad news of Sarah Harding’s diagnosis.

The 39-year-old Girls Aloud singer, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, revealed her illness was terminal earlier this year.

The time taken between appointments is also taking longer due to the coronavirus pandemic, which makes it harder for staff to work through the waiting list.

It is undestood that the same precautions GPs are taking mean that the hospital is seeing more direct referrals for lumps and bumps that may have in the past been ruled out within primary care, rather than having a referral onwards.

Jane Tombleson, deputy chief operating officer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Due to recent high profile stories within the media, throughout the past number of weeks we have seen a significant increase in the number of referrals to our breast clinics.

"While it is encouraging to see that local people are being proactive with their health, it has led to a small delay in the timeline of appointments offered.

“Colleagues are currently working hard to bring dates back in-line with the national guidance, and a plan is underway to ensure this achieved within the next month.”

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