A new state of the art mammography unit is now operational at
Darlington Memorial Hospital.
The digital imaging equipment provides a more comfortable
experience for patients and delivers enhanced sensitivity and 3D
image quality which supports improved detection of cancer.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has invested
in the new equipment following a review of its out-patient breast
The review involved centralising services in the short term onto
the two sites with the best quality imaging equipment: University
Hospital of North Durham (UHND) and Bishop Auckland Hospital.
Since then, clinicians have recommended that centralising new
out-patient clinics onto the Trust's two acute sites, UHND and
Darlington Memorial Hospital (DMH) would have significant clinical
benefits to patients, allowing the development of more advanced
diagnostic testing. However, there was a need to invest in
equipment in the south of the county to ensure patients with breast
conditions could access the best possible imaging.
Work has been progressing over the past few months to install
the new mammography equipment and is now complete. Where patients
are referred to hospital by their GP or following screening, state
of the art equipment will allow much more complex and accurate
tests to be carried out, resulting in better care for patients with
breast cancer. This equipment is now installed in Darlington
and is already available in Durham.
Mr Amir Bhatti, Consultant lead for breast services said: "Our
clinical recommendation was to install the new equipment at
Darlington so patients requiring rapid access to breast assessment
have timely access to the specialist clinical teams and imaging
equipment. These elements are critical to ensure early diagnosis
and where necessary the initiation of treatment.
"The new equipment offers more rapid, low dose imaging with
improved image quality. The unit is very user friendly and provides
more comfortable and reliable acquisition of images. It benefits
from both stereotactic biopsy and digital breast tomosynthesis
facilities. The digital breast tomosynthesis - 3D pictures of the
breast using x-rays - is designed to provide higher sensitivity and
specificity thereby offering improved cancer detection regardless
of breast size or tissue density. These additional features will
ensure an all-in-one system for screening, diagnostics, biopsy and
3D tomosynthesis. And as such patients will be able to attend a one
stop breast clinic, with biopsies being undertaken on the day of
"Due to the improved speed of imaging, the patient's examination
time in radiology will also be reduced thereby improving the
overall patient experience."
Patients requiring follow up appointments and who do not need
specialist imaging will continue to be seen at their local hospital
wherever possible including Bishop Auckland Hospital. These changes
also do not affect the national breast cancer screening programme
which takes place from mobile units at various locations across the
Janet Sedgwick, Associate Chief Operating Officer for Surgery
and Diagnostics said: "We had planned to transfer new out-patient
clinics from Bishop Auckland to Darlington from Monday 17 August.
However, due to a significant equipment failure we have moved a
week earlier. We are contacting patients who had appointments at
Bishop Auckland this week to discuss alternative arrangements. We
apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. We are,
however, pleased to now be able to offer these patients access to
the state of the art equipment and improved imaging."
The changes to the breast service have been made as interim
arrangements and any permanent configurations will be subject to a
wider consultation about Trust services at a later date.
'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient
ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough
- could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'
Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community