NNUH goes from worst in England to seeing hundreds of breast cancer patients

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital executives Chris Cobb and Erika Denton

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital executives Chris Cobb and Erika Denton have spoken of pressure on services, including rise in cancer referrals. - Credit: NNUH/Getty

Norfolk's biggest hospital has turned around its abysmal breast cancer performance, seeing more patients in September than in the previous seven months combined. 

Last month we reported that over the summer the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) had seen just one woman out of more than 200 with breast cancer symptoms within the two-week target of being referred by her GP.

Across England, 75pc of patients with breast cancer symptoms had a consultation within 14 days of a GP referral in July, but at the NNUH that figure was just 0.5pc.

The hospital also ranked the worst in England in July for providing breast cancer test results within four weeks, according to NHS data. Its figures for August were almost as awful, leaving women with long and nervous waits. 

But in September its performance improved massively. It saw 419 patients within the two-week window - more than the previous seven months combined. That meant it saw 70pc of women within the target.

However, it was still among the 20 worst hospitals in the country for seeing breast cancer patients on time. 

An NNUH spokesman put the problems down to a surge in referrals earlier this year and said the hospital had put on extra clinics at weekends to catch up. Pre-Covid the average weekly number of breast cancer rereferrals was 142, but that figure this year has been 175, up by a quarter.

They said: “Our teams continue to receive higher than expected numbers of breast cancer referrals and have been seeing record numbers of patients in our one-stop breast clinics in recent months.

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"We want to thank our breast clinic staff who have been running extra weekend clinics to catch up on the rise in referrals."

Charity worker Ruth Bennett was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019 and received treatment promptly at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. 

Last month she said: "I can’t imagine the terror I would have felt if I’d had to wait and wait. I think I would have really struggled, I struggled as it was.

"Once you’re diagnosed, it’s like you’ve got this horrible, disgusting, dangerous thing inside of you killing you.

“It’s a sick feeling, a squeamish feeling, and you just want it out - now."

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn see fewer breast cancer patients than the NNUH, but they kept up their performance throughout the year. 

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