Cancer service concerns

I’m with Jonathan on cancer services switch plan, says Vale SNP councillor

Caroline McAllister (SNP) and Jackie Baillie (Labour).

By Bill Heaney

A Vale of Leven SNP councillor has joined her group leader Jonathan McColl in welcoming the news that breast cancer screening services could soon be moved to Paisley – or possibly even to a Glasgow hospital.

Councillor Caroline McAllister, the SNP member of West Dunbartonshire Council for the Leven Ward, said: “On my return from recess I discovered that the breast screening service at the Vale [of Leven Hospital] was being relocated out of the area.

“My immediate reaction was one of anger tempered with frustration as it felt like the recent investment by the Council & GG&CHB in promoting our valued local hospital was being undermined & a valuable service was being lost locally.

“Rather than going off the deep end with few facts and lots of misinformation from the usual suspects, I raised the issue with our health board representative.”

The Democrat asked who that representative was but got no answer from Cllr McAllister, who appears to be part of the SNP boycott of this paper and know nothing of the old maxim that anonymity is the mortal enemy of credibility.

Her statement on social media said the briefing she received, which could have been from Cllr Jonathan McColl but this is not confirmed, was that:

  • The breast screening service will relocate to one of three centres of excellence, RAH in Paisley, Gartnavel and Stobhill hospitals. [Stobhill has sadly just been burned down.]
  • At present the process of screening, results, consultation with experts and commencement of treatment can take up to 12 weeks.
  • The service is being overhauled to streamline the process.
  • Those who undergo the procedure will get their results on the same day. Those who do not get the result they hoped for will have further investigatory tests/scans on that day.
  • Should those results come back unfavourable the woman will be seen by a specialist consultant and specialist nurse allocated if required, on the same day and a treatment plan formulated.
  • Women who require treatment can have that treatment at the Vale hospital.
  • Those who cannot use public transport or have no access to a car can get transport to their appointment, free of charge from the NHS and choose which hospital they attend for the screening.

Cllr McAllister added: “When I inquired why this huge improvement in the service couldn’t be delivered locally, it was highlighted to me the sheer volume of expertise and specialist equipment required in the process was nigh on impossible to deliver locally.

“Having gone through a minor scare myself some years ago, and having had to wait three weeks for the results, I personally welcome these changes.

“Anyone who has experienced the hell of waiting and worrying I’d imagine, will also welcome the streamlining of this process from weeks to one day.”

However, a large number of local women would like to see the service remaining in this area.

Matilda McCrimmon said: “I can understand the logical explanation for the redesign of this service. I find it remarkable that there is no service for which the Vale could be the centre of excellence and treatment not offered in any other hospital.

“There seems to be some physics defying assumption whereby it is easier for the people of the Vale to travel anywhere in the Health Board area than it is to travel to the Vale.

“For certain procedures people in other parts of Clyde are given the ‘option’ of the Vale, whereas it is very rarely an either/or for us.”

Susan O’neill added: “I take it the Vale breast screening service has been missing targets for some time going by what you’ve been told? Maybe [it is] an idea to share the stats showing this to help explain why there is the need for an improved streamlined service.

“It might help folk to understand another service being removed from the local area?

“We’re never going to be happy about losing so much, especially with the terrible female life expectancy in this area.

“But if it can be proved it will help make a terrible time for folk easier and save lives, I’m sure more folk would be supportive of it.”

Margaret Cameron said: “I don’t understand [this].  I was diagnosed the same day at the Vale [and got the] treatment planned biopsy results a week later, three weeks from seeing my GP.

“I was shocked and distraught. Looking back, I’m glad I was seen had mamo ultrasound and biopsy within the same appointment. There was so much to take in. Staff were amazing. What’s next for the chop in the interest of the ‘patients’?

“I’m interested to know who was consulted? I am sure I read people in the community were.”

Cllr McAllister replied: “I’m sorry to hear this Margaret. I am aware that not all procedures are carried out at the Vale and should’ve qualified that if a clinic/service is delivered at the Vale, patients can request an appointment at the Vale.”

Ellen O’Hare, who was a nurse at the Vale for 44 years, said several years ago, the Vale was a centre of excellence for breast care. The team were amazing and deserved that accolade.

She added: “Having had scare several years ago. Waiting seven weeks for clearance… I agonised… Feared… Never slept… Feared for my family… Was terrified… If the waiting time can be shorter… More precise care… I have to welcome this… If things happen quicker.”

Cllr McAllister said: “I agree Ellen. To get the results on the same day as the tests/scans is a huge improvement in the service-IMO.”

Ann Pryce said: “Women in West Dunbartonshire die earlier than on any other part of Scotland. Some women will choose not to travel, free or not, to have mammograms.

“We should be locating services locally, in order to improve this horrible statistic.

“We need to fight for this.”

But Cllr McAllister replied: “To get the results, treatment plan and so on the same day, I would imagine, will speed up appointments for treatment which in turn would improve outcomes.

“I’m no expert but logic would suggest the quicker something is treated the less chance it has to develop further.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who is not part of the boycott of The Democrat, has highlighted the fact that the SNP government is still missing its own early cancer detection target, according to official figures.

In 2012, then SNP Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced plans aiming to increase the number of first stage cancer detections by 25 per cent by 2015.

But official figures show there has only been an 8.4 per cent increase – well below the 2015 target.

The statistics also show that people from the most deprived areas, such as Dumbarton and parts of Vale of Leven, are still far more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage than those in more affluent areas.

Jackie Baillie said: “Once again we are seeing the detrimental effect that this SNP government is having on our valued National Health Service.

“These figures are particularly worrying given these proposals from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde to remove Breast Cancer care services from the Vale of Leven Hospital.

“The statistics clearly show that those from more deprived areas are often diagnosed at a much later stage. It is therefore simply baffling that anyone thinks it is a good idea to remove Breast Cancer services from the Vale, with its large and varied catchment area.

“Breast Cancer patients who look to the Vale for their treatment are being punished for the SNP’s inability to properly support our health workers and to fund our NHS.”

One comment

  1. The local SNP continue to be out of step with their approach to reflecting the needs of local people in another vital service area in health.

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