Staff shortage halts breast cancer surgery at Sunderland Hospital
Breast cancer surgery has been suspended at a North East hospital because of a staff shortage, the BBC has learned.
Sunderland Hospital is no longer taking new referrals and dozens of patients are having to be treated at other hospitals.
Sunderland's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it could no longer provide a consultant-led service.
But a spokesman added that patient treatment was not being compromised.
He said he hoped the service would resume soon, but it would take months rather than weeks.
Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said it had had around 100 more referrals from the Sunderland area since the service was halted in December.
Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary said it used to have five referrals from Sunderland a month, but that had gone up to 50.
A spokesman for Sunderland Hospital said: "This difficult decision was made in the interests of patient safety as we cannot currently provide a consultant-led service for our local population, despite our best efforts.
"We continue to work to ensure local residents have access to a high quality local breast service.
"This is clearly not an ideal situation, but the quality and safety of the breast service that is provided to local residents is of paramount importance."
Hospitals taking on extra breast cancer patients include the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), in Newcastle and Bishop Auckland General Hospital.
A spokeswoman for the RVI said the extra workload had not "compromised" treatment quality and waiting times were being met.