"Waiting time for breast clinic referral"

About: Crosshouse Hospital / General Medicine NHS Ayrshire & Arran

(as the patient),

I developed a large bruise and subsequently found a lump on my left breast. I swiftly made appointment with GP who examined me and advised she would send urgent referral. I expected as per national guidelines to have been seen within 2 weeks.

2 weeks later...no appointment

Called GP to check referral...urgent referral mid September. They advised I call cross house appointments. Cross house appointments advise I'm on a waiting list...Waiting! ! ! ! Yes, I'm waiting to find out if I have cancer! I asked when I would receive appointment ...They don't know, it's busy! ! I ask about the national guidelines and suggest I'm meant to be seen ideally within 2 weeks and could she tell me when I would see consultant. No, can't tell you and there are no rules to when you will be seen. Could I take a cancellation..Yes! ! ! But shouldn't I be receiving my own appointment as per the guidelines.

Again I was advised there are no guidelines and I'd get my appointment eventually. I asked 3 weeks? 4 weeks? 6 weeks? ? ? She didn't know! Upset I then called my GP practice again who also advised me there were no guidelines. I'm now getting more upset, I've been expecting an appointment at the least within a 2 week period to be told that NHS guidelines do not exist. I call McMillan helpline...they stress there are guidelines, that state 2 weeks from referral. Mcmillan nurse also stated my GP sending urgent referral suspects cancer.

Can I just please have an appointment to find out! Why are hurdles being placed in front of me? Why do NHS staff and GP staff not know guidelines? Why have national campaigns? Wear pink for breast cancer? Self examine? When an appointment isn't something readily available!

So far 2 weeks of worrying still not knowing when I shall be seen...now the lump and bruising may be nothing to worry about but it could be a very big worry and early diagnosis could be the difference between life and death for me...perhaps a dramatic statement but this is how I feel and I'm sure anyone who had been in my situation fully understands.

Frustration is putting it mildly, I'm completely disgusted that I'm being let down. I've done everything one gets told to do examine and report changes, don't hesitate...so why am I having to wait with no time scale on the time it will take to allocate an appointment?

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Responses

Update posted by Appointmentless (the patient)

Even more disappointed to see that I have had absolutely no feedback through this medium.

update >>>>>>>>

I received a call advising me that an appointment had been made for a mammogram - 7 weeks after my initial referral!!! I was advised that NHS Ayrshire and Arran are short staffed - while I sympathise with your staffing situation, I am selfishly only interested in myself at this moment and waiting 7 weeks for an urgent referral is completely unacceptable. If I lived in another part of the UK I think I would have had my appointment, diagnosis and prognosis....currently I'm still sat waiting to find out if my breast lump is something or nothing to worry about!

Response from Eunice Goodwin, Patient Feedback Manager for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Quality Improvement and Governance Team, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

picture of Eunice Goodwin

Dear Appointmentless,

Your worry is absolutely understandable and everyone reading this will appreciate that it is very anxiety provoking waiting for a diagnosis of any kind, particularly cancer. I am sorry you are trying to access the breast service at a time when we are two breast surgeons short and I really do appreciate that that is not your concern but in reality it will have an impact on the service.

Because of the nature of your enquiry, I passed this to the lead for the breast service for an accurate/up to date response and I will post it as soon as I receive it. In the meantime, if you would like to contact me on 01563 826222 or email me at mailto:eunice.goodwin@aapct.scot.nhs.uk we will be able to investigate the situation for you.

I am sorry you have not had a response so far but I promise it will be very soon.

Kind regards,

Eunice

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Response from NHS Ayrshire and Arran

I am extremely sorry for both the wait you have experienced for your outpatient appointment with the breast service, and for the lack of consistent and accurate communication around the likely appointment time.

We do aim to see all new patients referred urgently by their GP within 2-4 weeks of referral by their GP, but regrettably at present the waiting times have increased to 5-6 weeks. This is the result of reduced consultant capacity due to a consultant vacancy and recent maternity leave, which to date we have been unable to cover.

We are currently seeking permanent replacement medical staff and locum consultant support and in the meantime are arranging additional local outpatient sessions which should enable us to bring the waiting times down to a more acceptable level.

I am in the process of sending a letter to all GP practices in Ayrshire and Arran to ensure they are aware of the current challenges and waiting times within the breast service which should improve the accuracy of information they are then able to give to their patients when making a referral. I have also advised our appointments team of the delay, again to improve the communication to patients and to avoid some of the frustrations you have experienced.

You advised in your post that you were referred in mid September and I would expect that you will now be in receipt of an appointment. If you have still not received an appointment date, I would be happy to receive your details to ensure that one is sent out to you immediately.

Again, I am extremely sorry for the wait you have experienced.

Mrs Alex McGuire

Assistant General Manager – Surgery (Based at University Hospital Crosshouse, Switchboard number - 01563 521133)

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