The Mermaid Centre, which is recognised as a gold standard service, has been based for more than 20 years at the Truro hospital, and sees approximately 17,000 men and woman every year.
Miss Polly King, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust consultant breast surgeon and specialty lead, said: “During recent years there has been a continued month on month increase in the numbers of new patients referred with breast symptoms to the Mermaid Centre. This is due in part to better breast awareness through public health campaigns, which is great news.”
Traditionally anyone referred to see a breast specialist has been assessed in a 4-hour one-stop clinic within 2 weeks of GP referral, regardless of their symptoms, including people who the GP considers to be at low risk of breast cancer, but still needs a specialist’s opinion, alongside people with a greater suspicion of potential breast cancer.
From Monday 13 May GPs will be able to refer lower risk people to an additional clinic, which is shorter, more efficient but will continue to provide the start of their imaging (mammography) where appropriate and then invited to return for breast imaging with a consultant radiologist/radiographer (mammography, ultrasound and biopsy) within 10 days of this first appointment should further imaging be required.
Anyone with a higher risk of suspected cancer will continue to attend a 4-hour one-stop clinic, including imaging, as they do currently.
Miss King added: “The use of different styles of clinic will allow both high and low risk patients to still be seen in a specialist clinic within 2 weeks.
“The Mermaid Centre and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust remain committed to providing the highest quality of breast care. This latest modernisation initiative illustrates the continued aim for maintaining excellence, through innovation, collaboration and adaptation to the changing needs of our community.”
Dr Rob White, NHS Kernow’s Governing Body member and clinical lead for urgent and planned care, said: “These small changes have been designed to meet the recommended and safe best practice nationally and are vital for ensuring people receive the service they expect and need from the breast cancer service.
“Experience of similar initiatives in other NHS breast units elsewhere in the country such as Bath, Bristol and Nottingham has demonstrated that managing high and low risk patients in this way does not adversely impact treatment times. Importantly, it ensures that allows us to see more patients, more quickly and to ensure anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer will still begin treatment within 31 days of their diagnosis, and within 62 days of their original referral to the service.”
The new service has also been endorsed by Public Health England.