An exclusive partnership between Nuffield Health Newcastle Hospital in Jesmond and The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has successfully protected the delivery of vital breast cancer treatment for women in the North East during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, Nuffield Health Newcastle Hospital provided a COVID-19 secure hub for breast cancer procedures to be carried out by NHS consultants from the Breast Cancer Clinic at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI).

The time-sensitive collaboration ensured 57 ladies received specific surgeries without delay.

To maintain the provision of essential breast cancer services to patients, both clinical and non-clinical teams at Nuffield Health worked side-by-side with staff from the RVI Breast Cancer Clinic for two months to prepare the hospital to support the NHS.

This included step-by-step training on specific equipment and a specialist technique using radioactive iodine seeds to localise breast cancers accurately, thereby reducing the likelihood of patients requiring a second procedure. The RVI was the first UK hospital to use iodine seeds and has the largest experience in the UK.

Judith Tindale, theatre manager at Nuffield Health Newcastle Hospital, said: “I am extremely proud of the team and how hard everyone has worked together to ensure these essential treatments were delivered to those most in need during such demanding times.

“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all and the effort and dedication of NHS staff has been awe-inspiring. We’ve been honoured to support NHS patients and the breast cancer care team in our local trust. This collaboration in breast cancer care demonstrates our commitment to working with public health bodies to ensure the best patient outcomes.”

The Breast Cancer Clinic at the RVI looks after patients that have been referred by their GP for further investigation and treatment if necessary. Newcastle Hospitals is one of the busiest and largest NHS foundation trusts in the country, with around 17,000 staff and rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2019.

Adam Critchley, head of department for breast surgery at Newcastle Hospitals and consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon, said: “Due to the interim support we received from the team at Nuffield Health Newcastle Hospital we were able to maintain the breast cancer service and ensure there was no impact on our patients during the pandemic. We are delighted with the success of this collaboration in ensuring our vital services in breast cancer care have been maintained.”