One fifth of all patients referred to the symptomatic breast cancer clinic at Letterkenny University Hospital for an appointment have been waiting for more than a year to be seen.

Of the 732 patients referred to the service by their GP as having displayed symptoms of possible Breast cancer, 143 of those have been waiting for over a year now for an appointment.  A further 245 patients have already been waiting over 6 months to be seen.

This information was revealed to Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty through Parliamentary Questions. Deputy Doherty has criticised both the Government and the HSE over the figures:

“This is understandably extremely concerning for all those who are waiting to be seen as, like the majority of cancers, early detection and treatment is crucial if we are to the best patient outcome possible and potentially survival,” he said.

Earlier this month, it was announced that a second Breast Surgeon was appointed to Letterkenny University Hospital and will commence full-time service for breast cancer patients on 24 July 2017. Deputy Doherty said more services are needed.

“While I understand that a locum consultant surgeon is due to commence work later next month in an effort to meet current service demand, clearly much more is needed to ensure that patients here in Donegal are seen and treated in a timely and effective manner.

“The symptomatic breast disease clinic at Letterkenny University operates as a satellite service provided by University Hospital Galway, which is one of eight Symptomatic Breast Clinics funded by the HSE across the state.

“The local clinic at LUH is run by a single consultant who also undertakes general surgery at the hospital, and the service is responsible for seeing GP referrals of patients from across Donegal who display symptoms of possible breast cancer or who may have a family history of the disease.

“Currently, the breast clinic is augmented by locum consultants who must travel to carry out these important clinics at Letterkenny University Hospital. Once there, patients will be examined by a clinic doctor who may decide to refer you for some additional tests such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound.

“Despite the importance of this service, more and more patients from across Donegal have raised serious concerns in relation to the lengthy waits being faced by those referred to the service by their GP.

Deputy Doherty said he is calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to immediately provide the appropriate supports required by the service at LUH, including the running of additional clinics needed to reduce the current excessive waiting times.

“I pledge to continue to raise this matter with Government as I believe that patients here in the county deserve to have access to cancer services which are fit-for-purpose and place the needs of patients at its core.”