The new NHS Lincolnshire Specialist Breast Pain Clinic launched in late March when they started seeing patients for the first time. The new specialist service is a different way of looking at healthcare as it offers services from secondary care (hospitals) in a primary care (community) setting.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) have worked with primary care and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) colleagues in order to model and deliver this new service. The new clinics are able to deliver the best care for patients across Lincolnshire who are suffering from breast pain alone.
Breast pain is a common issue and as a standalone symptom is rarely indicative of any cancer. However, up until the launch of the clinic, all people who were suffering from breast pain had to be seen on a two week wait cancer pathway. Due to the nature of this pathway this has meant that a patient could have undergone unnecessary tests and also suffered increased stress and worry about a potential cancer diagnosis.
Under the new pathway, patients will receive treatment and advice from their GP prior to being referred to the community based breast pain clinic. The breast clinic will offer a full family history assessment, breast examination and expert advice. Any referrals into the breast pain clinic will also be seen within two weeks.
This collaboration between hospital consultants and GPs means that patients can be seen quickly for their symptoms. As well as improved outcomes for patients, these changes will help to reduce two-week wait cancer referrals by 15 to 20% which will also relieve significant pressure in cancer services.
To help support the launch, the Trust have created a video about breast pain symptoms, with simple advice and what might happen if patients need to attend the clinic. The video features advice from Dr Amtul Sami, Breast Surgeon at ULHT and as well as Dr Kathryn Rhodes a GP at Washingborough surgery. Both of these senior doctors want to encourage patients suffering with breast pain to have a better understanding of the symptoms, causes and help available.
Chris Chantry, Deputy General Manager in the Family Health Division at ULHT said: “Healthcare is always changing through innovations in treatment or research and sometimes the way we deliver care can make the biggest difference to patients. This collaborative approach between Lincolnshire’s hospitals and GPs in communities helps patients to be seen just as quickly as they would have been previously, but in local settings. Currently there are clinics running in Lincoln and Boston.If, as we expect, these clinics prove successful they may be expanded to other areas and the Trust may also look at what other pathways and services could work well in this new approach.”
Lynne Chapman, the very first patient to be seen on the pathway said: “The clinic has made a huge difference to my life. All of the staff made me feel comfortable and I was put at ease immediately. The service is highly personalised and as a specialist clinic everyone there knew what I was going through.
“I was able to spend time with the team and they had time to understand my issues clearly and comprehensively. Suffering with breast pain is very worrying and as an intimate area you have the worry of it being something more serious, alongside concerns around your body. The clinic being separate from a cancer diagnosis pathway meant my mind was put totally at rest. I was given advice to manage my condition and also encouraged to attend my mammogram. I have been recommending the clinic to everyone as it was such a great environment, a rapid service and I really felt listened to.”
Dr Sami said: “Any changes in the breast, including pain can be really worrying, but breast pain alone is rarely a symptom of cancer. By setting up breast pain clinics in the community we are able to put our patients at ease and offer them help and advice whilst checking family history and conducting breast examinations. In this specialist environment we deliver the right service to the people of Lincolnshire, who may have been suffering in silence.”
Breast pain clinics are currently being run in North Hykeham Health Centre and Boston Health Clinic. All GPs in Lincolnshire are able to refer patients who are suffering with breast pain into the specialist clinics. You can find out more by visiting: Specialist Breast Pain Clinic – United Lincolnshire Hospitals (ulh.nhs.uk)