Stafford Hospital breast cancer services criticised

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A new report has criticised the standard of breast cancer care at Stafford Hospital, describing the set-up as "deeply dysfunctional".

The peer review report was compiled by the Greater Midlands Cancer Research Network (GMCRN).

Trust Medical Director Mr Robert Courteney-Harris insisted breast surgery services were safe.

The report said there was evidence of "open hostility" between some clinicians and the management.

It particularly highlighted a lack of support for the lead clinician from the Multi Disciplinary Team's (MDT) surgeons.

Its authors said they were "seriously concerned about the effect on patient management and safety".

The report was published following a visit to Stafford Hospital's breast cancer MDT on 14 March.

The external review was carried out by professional peers, alongside some self-assessment.

Despite "little evidence of progress" over the last two years, the report said some improvements had been made, including the employment of three specialist nurses to support patients.

It said digital mammography had also been started, and praised a "comprehensive work plan for nursing," which had been put together by the team.

Change procedures

The inspectors warned that in all of the patient records seen during their visit in March, sections of forms for confirming the correct site for surgery were blank.

They warned that this could lead to surgery being undertaken on the wrong breast and urged the trust to urgently change their procedures.

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said an old checklist had been removed from the casenotes and standard guidelines were now being followed.

Mr Courteney-Harris said: "Breast surgery services at Stafford Hospital are safe.

"We regularly monitor the results and outcomes for our patients and some concerns have been raised about specific aspects of the service.

"These are being addressed and we continue to work closely with our commissioners so that they are kept fully informed."

A peer review team is next due to visit the hospital in March 2013.

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