Hospital breast unit set for £4m expansion

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By Christian Barnett - Local Democracy Reporter

A breast unit which has helped tens of thousands of women in Worcestershire looks set to expand, new multi-million-pound plans reveal.

Worcestershire Breast Unit which opened after years of hard work and fundraising in 2016 would expand by more than two thirds allowing staff to cope with hundreds more patients.

The £4 million expansion plans for the unit, based at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital site in Worcester, would create a dedicated screening area for the unit allowing twice as many women to be examined.

The extension would also allow the screening area to open independently at weekends – something that is not currently possible – to ease pressure on the rest of the facility in the week.

The work means specialists in Bromsgrove will move to the facility in Worcester.

The facility was the vision of consultant breast surgeon Steven Thrush who spearheaded a fundraising campaign starting in 2009 raising the £1.8 million needed to open the facility.

Mr Thrush thanked breast radiologist Dr Penny Haggett who was instrumental in gaining the funding for the expansion.

He said: “It is going to be one of the best units around having all of those [teams] together. It will also be covering screening for Herefordshire and it is making a hub which will future proof the services.

“It means we can continue to improve, it means we can continue to develop the services and it will help with keeping people there. If we have world-class facilities, which we will have, it will help with recruitment and of course it is going to make better patient care. It’s brilliant.

“We’re going to have a facility that we can continue to be proud of. We always said before that once we had this building we wanted to continue to develop it and this is another example of that.”

The unit opened in February 2016 thanks to the generosity of people in Worcestershire and has since gone from strength to strength.
The facility offers screenings, treatment, therapy, and counselling, and has screened tens of thousands of women in its short history including many women showing symptoms of breast cancer.

The expansion of the unit would prove essential in helping the six hundred women a year who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Worcestershire.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said the expansion of the unit would provide better and discreeter facilities for patients and allow screenings to take place independently of clinics and bring the trust’s radiologists into one place in Worcester.

He said: “This exciting development will support our purpose of putting patients first and one of the key aims of our clinical services strategy by improving and expanding the breast screening and diagnostic service at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

“This additional space will allow us to bring our breast radiology team from their current home at Princess of Wales Community Hospital in Bromsgrove to the Worcestershire Breast Unit where breast surgeons already have their base.

“The move to the Worcestershire Breast Unit will provide space and facilities to expand education and training in breast imaging and increase comprehensive imaging support for patients with breast cancer.

“The extended design will incorporate screening and ultrasound facilities, reporting facilities, and a dedicated waiting area for women waiting to be screened.

“It allows breast screening appointments to run independently of breast clinics and replaces the current mobile screening facilities based at Worcestershire Royal hospital, so improving ease of access for patients who have limited mobility.

“Subject to planning consent, and approval of a full business case later this year, construction work will start towards the end of the year.

“A breast screening service will be maintained for Bromsgrove. The project has a companion development at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch where a new breast imaging centre will replace a mobile imaging unit.”