‘Groundbreaking’ breast cancer centre on the move after three decades at Aberdeen base

It was the end of an era as a breast screening centre closed its doors after nearly three decades to move into a temporary ward.

The Breast Screening Centre at Foresterhill shut for the last time ahead of its move to the new Baird Family Hospital.

As the hospital is not due to open until around 2021, the centre will be moving into an interim converted ward in the main Aberdeen Royal Infirmary building.

Screening will resume in two weeks in its new base, where business will continue as usual.

Breast services manager Elspeth Hay and specialist radiographer mammo-graphy Rosey Leiper have been at the centre since it opened.

Elspeth said: “When we started we only had four radiographers, a dark room technician, we screened about 42,000 women, we only had one mobile unit and now we’re at 80,000 women since we had the age extension and we have two mobile units and the staff has probably increased four-fold.”

Rosey added: “I can honestly say I’ve been proud to be part of such a wonderful service and to see it develop as well.

“I think our goal was to set the service up, and it’s been continually evolving.

“My goal was to get the system up and running, it was all very new and exciting. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Rosey said the unit had done “groundbreaking” work during its first few years in operation, adding that it was an “emotional” day for her as she prepares to retire in March.

“Being a mammographer has changed as well. Before, there was only four of us running the vans, but it’s just as tough.

“You want to give every woman the best scan possible,” she added.

Every woman between the ages of 50 and 70 in the region is invited to the centre for screening.

If everything is fine, they are invited back in another three years, and if something abnormal is found in their scan, they are called back to attend the assessment clinic.

Rosey said: “The aim of it was to make it not clinical.

“We didn’t feel like it was a clinical environment and that’s what we wanted because we had well women coming.”

Elspeth added: “Time and time again people have said how lovely it is to come here, and how comfortable they feel in the waiting room.

“I think that’s what we’ll miss as we all go into an interim ward.”

All the equipment will be making the move with the staff, and they hope to get things back up and running within two weeks.

They will eventually be moving from the ward into the new Baird Family Hospital when it is built, which will see all of the services run by the centre integrated.

Elspeth said: “We were wanting to co-locate and we’ve been looking at that for quite some time.

“The best way to run the breast service is to have it combined, so now we’ll have that chance when we go to the Baird because it’ll be totally integrated, so we’ll be using the same clinical area, and it’ll all be there under one umbrella.

“It’s the way forward, and once it’s all in I’m sure it’ll work really well.”

Elspeth said the next aim for the staff was preparing for their new home at the Baird facility, but said there was “a lot of work to do”.

“We’ll need to look at how we integrate and how we run the clinic and all the different kind of projects,” she said.

With such an impressive history, they both agreed they were grateful to have been a part of the centre from the beginning.

Rosey said: “It’s the end of an era, and I’m proud to have been here.”

Since the centre opened, there has only been three clinical directors in the past 28 years.

Clinical director Dr Gerald Lip has been in the role at the Breast Screening Centre for the past five years.

He said: “The idea of the Baird came up and there was the chance to link the breast screening services with the breast symptomatic services, which is for the women who feel a lump and come to a clinic.

“Hopefully the interim centre will be a temporary home for three or four years and then we move on to the Baird Family Hospital, and we’re looking forward to the change in that.

“We hope that the women in Aberdeen will continue to come for screening because at the moment it’s easy in a purpose-built centre and we want to maintain the fact that Aberdeen has the highest uptake rate in Scotland.

“We’d encourage women to come to the new interim centre in the main hospital.

“It’s our challenge to maintain that level of quality in the new centre.”

Patients will receive maps and directions in their screening invitation letters on how to get to the new location, and signposting in the main hospital will also be updated to reflect the move.

Screening on mobile units will continue during the period of the move.