"Breast screening - review visits to Aberdeen for Shetland patients - getting results."
About: NHS Grampian / North East Scotland Breast Screening Centre NHS Grampian North East Scotland Breast Screening Centre Aberdeen AB25 2XF NHS Shetland NHS Shetland
Posted by North Ness (as ),
I recently attended routine breast screening at the mobile unit in Lerwick. Last week, I had a ‘recall’ letter to say my x-rays were inconclusive, and an appointment had been made for me at the Breast Clinic in Aberdeen. I went to Aberdeen yesterday and was seen by Dr Deans’ team – who were great; I felt I was in very good hands. I had ultrasound and core-biopsy and was able to leave the clinic by lunchtime. I asked about results of the tests, and was told that each Wednesday, Dr Deans’ team hold a multidisciplinary meeting to discuss cases (such as mine) from the previous week. When a case involves a Shetland lady, medical staff from Shetland join the meeting by video-link. I was told that my case would probably be discussed next Wednesday and that ‘someone in Shetland’ would contact me with the outcome. It was not possible to be more precise than this. Before I left the clinic, one of the nurses gave me a yellow leaflet containing information about the procedure (core biopsy) I had undergone. I noticed that on the front on the leaflet, there was a section that said ‘Next appointment and time’. The nurse explained that Aberdeen patients who came for review were given their next appointment before they left the clinic – ie, they would leave knowing the date, place and time they would get their results.
This is in sharp contrast to Shetland patients. I have come home with no clear idea of when, where, how and from whom I will get my results. Will I get a letter? Will someone try and phone? If the latter, will they phone me at home – which will be pointless, as I’ll be at work! Worse still – I go on holiday soon, will I have my results by then? I’ve no idea.
Let’s be quite clear. Going for a review and having more tests is very frightening because of the natural fear that those tests will reveal malignancy. Staff at the Breast Clinic in Aberdeen are just superb – reassuring and professional. But on leaving the clinic, it can feel that Shetland patients fall into a sort of ‘black hole’ of uncertainty. That’s certainly how I feel right now. I fully accept that tests have to be assessed and discussed and that does take time. But I don’t feel it should be open-ended and to me it is unacceptable that Shetland patients leave the Breast Clinic in Aberdeen without knowing when, where or how their results will be given, and without having a point of contact in Shetland to go to for advice or reassurance whilst waiting. It should not be assumed that because we live in a comparatively small community, we automatically know.
In closing, six years ago after routine screening I had a recall to Aberdeen, and then the situation was similar – a lack of clarity about how, when and by whom results would be delivered, and a delay in receiving them, which caused significant distress. I’m naturally disappointed that this situation is still arising, because I think it’s avoidable by providing women with just a little more information. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this constructively.