The boss of Scarborough Hospital has said there is “no obvious solution” to the loss of breast cancer outpatient services in the town.
Mike Proctor, chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, told a meeting of the trust’s board of governors today that recruitment and not money was the major stumbling block to restoring the service.
Around 600 patients now have to travel to York for appointments after the service was withdrawn by Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust on March 5. The Hull trust was contracted to provide the service at Scarborough for the last decade.
Mr Proctor said he “deeply regretted” the loss of the service and the impact on patients.
He said: “The breast service was removed by Hull and it has left us with a gap, not of our design.
“The only way for us to provide appointments for patients in Scarborough is for them to travel to York or to Hull.
“We are looking at other ways that we can deliver that but there is no obvious solution at the moment.
“There is a national shortage of oncologists. There is no bank of oncologists for us to recruit from.
“If we can find an oncologist from elsewhere that is able to provide a service in Scarborough than we will do that even if it costs a lot more money. It is not money getting in the way here.”
He added that the trust has pulled a consultant back from Harrogate in order to see the patients in York. When pressed by the governors on why the consultant could not work out of Scarborough Hospital, Mr Proctor said he could not afford to have the consultant in a car for four hours.
He said: “For consultants, travel time is work time and I want him spending those four hours seeing patients, not sat in a car.
“I might be wrong but I’m trying to find the best solution to a problem not of my making.
“The issue is seeing patients in a timely manner. I know there are some patients who would rather be seen when they need to and have to travel and others who would rather be seen less often and not to have to travel.
“I may have got it wrong and we will monitor the situation.
“There is no ideal solution to this. The ideal solution would be for Hull to continue to provide the service.”
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was withdrawing the service due to “medical staffing constraints both nationally and regionally”.
The provision of chemotherapy is not affected and will continue to be provided in Scarborough and Bridlington, Mr Proctor confirmed.