Mobile breast screening service to return to Fleetwood – but not Poulton-le-Fylde

Campaigners are welcoming the return of the service to Fleetwood but ask: “What about Poulton?”

Campaigners have vowed to continue the fight to bring vital mobile breast screening services back to Poulton as well as Fleetwood.

Vital mobile breast screening services were temporarily axed in January from Fleetwood and Poulton-le-Fylde, with health bosses at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust confirming that the location of the mobile breast screening units had been temporarily changed.

A huge campaign was mounted for the service to be reinstated, with a Facebook group gathering 2000 members.

Now health bosses have said the service will be restored to Fleetwood from the end of March – but no mention has been made of the service in Poulton-le-Fylde.

Dr Sarah Hauxwell, Clinical Director for Core Clinical Services, and Lead Cancer Clinician at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, told Lancs Live last week: “The decisions around location of breast screening vans were made to ensure as many women as possible across the area had access to breast screening. We have continued to work with NHS England and Improvement as commissioners of the service, to secure an additional breast screening van.

“As a result, we are pleased to share that we will be providing a mobile breast screening service in Fleetwood from the end of March 2022 with appointments bookable at this site from 4 March.

“We would urge all women who are invited to make an appointment for breast screening to take up the important opportunity as soon as they can.”

Gemma Jackson, 75, chair of Thornton Practice Patient Participation Group, welcomed the decision for Fleetwood, but vowed to continue the campaign for Poulton.

She said transport difficulties, childcare and cost for people living in Over Wyre would mean women from the area still missing out on vital appointments.

She told Lancs Live: “We are nearly there – and I will only be happy when it comes back to Poulton.

“It’s just coming back to Fleetwood. I’m happy that it’s coming back to Fleetwood – but what about Poulton?

“The big issue is that for people living in Over Wyre, the transport is difficult for them.

“You have got an hourly bus service, and if you don’t drive, it’s a heck of a way to get to Fleetwood.

“I went to the one in Palatine, and I was travelling from Cleveleys. I was able to drive so it was not a big deal but for somebody paying about 100 pounds in a taxi for the journey from Wyre, it is a big deal.

“The taxi journey for one lady was over £100, it had taken her from Poulton to Lytham and had to wait while she had the appointment. Some people went privately because it was easier.

“Childcare as well is an issue, if you are going to take a long time. You could take an hour and come back before. My friend said, ‘I have to take the morning off work, and I can’t do it in my lunch time. Before, I could pop into Poulton, and I didn’t take to have time off’.

“You don’t want to put women off going. If they think it’s difficult or costly, it will put them off going. People have been missing appointments because of this.”

Welcoming the decision to reinstate the service at Fleetwood, she added: “It’s a wonderful step for those in Fleetwood but people from Over Wyre, living in places like Preesall, Knott End, Stalmine and Hambleton, those villages are particularly affected.

“They will make the decision based on the population. That doesn’t help – you aren’t data, you are a patient.

“We have got lots of rural communities, and they have got to be served as well. It’s good for Fleetwood – I’m pleased about that, but it doesn’t stop here.”

Paul Maynard, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, told Lancs Live: “Whilst it is good news that a community campaign has succeeded in restoring the service to Fleetwood, I am conscious that Poulton has not been reprieved, and am particularly annoyed that the Trust simply refuses to explain to me what the technical problems are that prevent the return of the mobile screening unit to Poulton. Without that information, my constituents still feel short-changed by the decision, especially if they are accustomed to going to Poulton.”

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust was contacted by Lancs Live for an updated response.