Sue MilnerBreast Service Manager
Q: What is your role here at King Edward VII’s Hospital?
A: My job as service manager is to oversee all developments, with Dr Malhotra (Clinical Director of the Breast Unit), within the unit and determine how we can move the service forward. We have surgeons Mr Al-Mufti, Mr Davies, Ms Franks and Mr Ghosh on board running regular clinics and bringing their surgical cases too. We also have full radiology cover, so there will always be a radiologist available, if needed, for a booked appointment. What we aim to do is allow for all ladies who come through to have immediate radiology reports; so for example, if the ladies go from having a routine screen into being an assessment case, it can all be done at the same time, if she wants to, with the appropriate support.
Q: With regards to the women who come in and use the breast services here, what percentage would you say are referrals from GPs or are just ‘worried well’ women coming for routine screening?
A: It’s difficult to say; we are probably doing about 50% health screens due to key GPs who refer their ladies to us for mammograms. We also have a growing number of routine screening ladies who are coming through gynaecologists. The problem is women are often very busy, so they’ll go to their gynaecologist and have their annual screening and they’ll say to the gynaecologist ‘oh, by the way, while I’m here this has been nagging me’ or ‘I’ve had a bit of discharge that I’m not quite sure about, what do you think’ and the gynaecologist will then pass them on to us. The rest of our work is symptomatic referrals (someone who has gone to their GP after they have found a lump or something unusual), or work that’s been fed to us by our in-house consultants. We try to be proactive and ensure that there is someone here as much of the time as possible so if there is a last minute patient who needs a mammogram or needs to speak to one of us, we are available and ready for that.
Q: Do you feel, from when the service first began to now, having the whole floor to yourselves and such a beautiful open space helps things for the team and for the patients?
A: The whole department, everybody, all of our patients - they love the space. They love to see the continuity, and the patients feel great reassurance. If they’re coming in to see a breast surgeon for example, seeing the surgeon discussing their case with the radiologist makes them feel very special, but it also makes them feel very secure in knowing that we are giving them our full time and attention. Some of our ladies come from the NHS to have surgery here under private medical insurance. To come from being one of many in a busy waiting room to one of a few in our space here, is very comforting and relaxing for them; they know we take care of them here. It’s really about drilling down to what the patient needs and taking care of them; remembering they aren’t just a patient, they’re a person too. It sounds silly but when you go private, you get access to the best equipment and the best quality staff. They don’t need to question that, so all we can do is give them those personal touches and interact with them. The new ultrasound room also works really well. We will usually ask our patients to bring somebody with them (if they wish) and the room is a really important factor in that. We now have a big room so whoever has come with them can sit in. The room is screened off so that it’s private for the patient, but the friend can still hear what we’re saying to them. Having this space can be vital when women are panicked about getting ultrasounds because they sometimes miss bits of information through worrying so much; having someone there supporting them emotionally, and to pick up that information for them too, is key.
Q: What do you feel makes this service different?
A: We had one lady in and she’d had both knees replaced with Professor Cobb at the Hospital. It had shown up in a scan at a later date that she had a breast cancer, so she came back in for the surgery and everything was sorted. We went in one day to just do some checks and she was looking out of the window, seemingly worried. We asked her what was wrong as it was a lovely day, but she was worried about her flowers and garden at home. Her neighbours were looking after them but her garden was her treasure and was very worried about it, so we said ‘okay well, why don’t we ring your neighbour and we can ask if everything’s okay!’ She agreed and so we called the neighbour and he said that everything was fine, the flowers and the plants were all fine, but she was still worrying slightly. We then asked the neighbour if they could perhaps send a photo of the garden so that she could see it was all okay, and straight away she was happier and at ease. It’s small, simple things like that that we do to make sure our patients are at ease and as happy and comfortable as possible.
For more information about our Breast unit and Women's Health Centre of Excellence, please see: http://www.kingedwardvii.co.uk/excellence/king-edward-viis-womens-health-centres-of-excellence/