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500 IN BREAST CANCER SCANDAL; Staff crisis deepens.

NEARLY 500 women hit by breast cancer have been told by the beleaguered Beatson cancer centre: We can't see you for a year.

Health chiefs at the crisis-hit oncology unit in Glasgow yesterday admitted that "low risk" patients had been told they must wait 12 months or longer for check-ups.

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow admitted: "A senior doctor has reviewed the records of patients who had been due to attend for check-ups over the next few months and identified those considered to be at low risk.

"They have had their appointments put back. But if they wish, they have the opportunity to see the team at the Victoria Infirmary."

But the team at the Victoria is a surgical rather than a specialist cancer unit - and there are claims that appointments there have been postponed too.

Patients suffering from bowel cancer are facing a 10 month wait before diagnosis at the Victoria.

One breast cancer patient, who had a lump removed more than two years ago, said the delays at the Beatson were unforgiveable.

Karen Jenkins, 60, from Newton Mearns, Glasgow, had been due to attend her six-monthly check-up in January but has now been told not to go until 2003.

The former care worker said: "I feel abandoned. I just don't know what to do.

"Should I contact my GP or wait and hope nothing goes wrong in the next 12 months?

"I believe someone could die if they have to wait for so long between appointments.

"It is frightening enough to have cancer without worrying you could develop secondary cancers because the signs were not spotted at your check-ups."

Beatson bosses have blamed staff shortages.

The centre has been rocked by a string of resignations by cancer specialists amid claims that it is seriously underfunded.

Control of the Beatson, housed at Glasgow's Western Infirmary, was last week handed to NHS Greater Glasgow by Scottish health minister Malcolm Chisholm.

He stripped responsibility from North Glasgow NHS Trust after a flying visit to the unit and promised the new management team more funds.

He also ordered an international recruitment drive for more expert staff.

But opposition MSPs were last night angry that the new team had immediately ordered cuts in patient care.

SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "This is deeply worrying. Just putting in new management isn't going to solve anything. In fact it has made things worse.

"We are talking here about people's lives and what is being done is just not good enough."

An Executive spokesman said everything was being done to recruit new specialist staff.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 12, 2001
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