Fleetwood MP Cat Smith, Public Health Lead Dr Mark Spencer and local councillors are calling on the NHS to return the Mobile Breast Screening Service to the town.
The North Lancashire & South Cumbria Breast Screening Service run by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed they are unable to move the mobile vans from their current positions in Lytham, Blackpool and Lancaster meaning women in Fleetwood and Wyre are having to travel miles for screening.
“Given the poor public transport links, many women say they won’t be able to attend their appointment,” said MP Cat Smith. “The travel time is too lengthy, and they can’t be released from work or they can’t afford the travel costs.
“Here in Fleetwood there is below average car ownership and above average numbers of people on low incomes making it more likely that patients in Fleetwood and the wider area are less likely to be able to attend appointments outside of the town.”
It’s not just the people of Fleetwood being affected. The removal of Fleetwood’s service also impacts hundreds of patients across Over Wyre who, living in the outlying rural villages, already face difficulty accessing services.
Fleetwood County Councillor Lorraine Beavers is very concerned by the service no longer being available in the town. “We’re aware that due to Covid, many women have had their breast screening appointments cancelled and are now very concerned that they are missing out on life saving diagnosis by not being able to access the service in Lytham or elsewhere in Lancashire.”
Leanne Coulson, Interim Head of Department for North Lancashire & South Cumbria Breast Screening Service said in a statement that ‘the health and wellbeing of all women in the Fleetwood and Poulton areas remains of upmost importance to our service, many ladies from these areas have attended but we are fully aware of the transport difficulties faced by many others when being invited elsewhere for screening and the effect this has on attendance. At this current time, we are not able to move the vans to Fleetwood or Poulton, please be reassured that we are looking at ways of moving the mobiles vans to both sites if this is possible. In the meantime, we have 3 screening vans, which are currently situated at Lytham Health Centre, Palatine Leisure Centre and Royal Lancaster Infirmary ,we welcome attendance at these sites.’
“I hope this situation can be resolved quickly,” said Ms Smith. “Life expectancy is closely related to people’s socio-economic circumstances. The most common measure of these circumstances across a population is deprivation – and both Fleetwood and Over Wyre have some of the most deprived wards in the country. It’s unfair that Fleetwood and Over Wyre face health inequalities not experienced by other towns along the Fylde Coast.”
In a statement, Dr Mark Spencer of Mountview Surgery and Clinical Lead for the Fleetwood Primary Care Network said, “People are understandably concerned about the situation and until now, the absence of an explanation from the Morecambe Bay Health Care Trust who operate the service. I understand that a statement will be issued soon and reflecting the strength of feeling within the local community, discussions will continue on future breast screening provision in Fleetwood. In the meantime staff at Fleetwood’s GP surgeries are doing all they can to help find a solution and we do encourage everyone to attend their appointments if they possibly can.”