Specialist breast pain clinic provides new way to access health services for hundreds of people across Lincolnshire
NHS Lincolnshire’s new specialist breast pain clinic launched at the end of March when it first started seeing patients. The new specialized service is a different way of looking at health care as it provides secondary care services (hospitals) within a primary care (community) setting.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) worked with colleagues from primary care and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to model and deliver this new service. The new clinics are able to provide the best care to patients in Lincolnshire who suffer only from breast pain.
Breast pain is a common problem and, as a standalone symptom, rarely indicates cancer. However, until the clinic was launched, everyone who suffered from breast pain had to follow a two-week waiting cancer treatment course. Due to the nature of this pathway, this means that a patient could have undergone unnecessary testing and also suffered from increased stress and worry about a potential cancer diagnosis.
Under the new pathway, patients will receive treatment and advice from their GP before being referred to the community breast pain clinic. The breast clinic will offer a comprehensive family history assessment, breast examination and expert advice. Any referral to the Breast Pain Clinic will also be reviewed within two weeks.
This collaboration between hospital consultants and general practitioners makes it possible to quickly see patients for their symptoms. In addition to improving patient outcomes, these changes will help reduce cancer referrals waiting two weeks by 15-20%, which will also significantly reduce pressure on cancer services.
To help support the launch, the Trust has created a video about the symptoms of breast pain, with simple advice and what could happen if patients were to visit the clinic. The video features advice from Dr Amtul Sami, Breast Surgeon at ULHT, as well as Dr Kathryn Rhodes, General Practitioner at Washingborough Surgery. These two senior doctors want to encourage patients with breast pain to better understand the symptoms, causes and help available.
Chris Chantry, Deputy Chief Executive of ULHT’s Division of Family Health, said, “Health care is constantly changing through innovations in treatment or research and sometimes the way we provide care can change. the biggest difference for patients. This collaborative approach between Lincolnshire hospitals and community GPs helps patients get seen as quickly as they would have been before, but in a local setting. There are currently clinics in Lincoln and Boston. If, as we anticipate, these clinics prove successful, they could be expanded into other areas and the Trust could also consider what other pathways and services might work well in this new approach.
Lynne Chapman, the very first patient to be seen on the course, said: “The clinic has made a huge difference in my life. All the staff made me feel welcome and I was put at ease immediately. The service is highly personalized and as a specialist clinic everyone 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 completely. Suffering from breast pain is very worrying and as an intimate area you fear that it is something more serious, alongside concerns around your body. With the clinic being separated from a cancer diagnostic pathway, my mind was totally at peace. I was given advice to manage my condition and was also encouraged to attend my mammogram. I recommended the clinic to everyone because it was a great environment, prompt service, and I felt really listened to.
Dr Sami said: “Any change in the breast, including pain, can be really concerning, 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 while doing family history checks and performing breast exams. In this specialist environment, we provide the right service to the people of Lincolnshire, who may have suffered in silence.
Breast pain clinics are currently running at North Hykeham Health Center and Boston Health Clinic. All GPs in Lincolnshire are able to refer patients with breast pain to specialist clinics. You can find out more by visiting: Mastalgia Clinic – United Hospitals of Lincolnshire (ulh.nhs.uk)