Breast cancer patients from the NHS Tayside health board will have to travel to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen for treatment after they failed to recruit an oncologist.

Around eight patients per week are expected to be affected.

NHS Tayside currently has one breast radiotherapy specialist who is due to retire at the end of this month, leaving the health board with just one oncologist who cannot do radiotherapy work.

The health board’s medical director Professor Peter Stonebridge said that there is a ‘national shortage of these specialist clinicians’ and NHS Tayside as well as other health boards are having difficulties recruiting them.

They are now working with the Scottish Government to look at available options to restore the radiotherapy department.

Professor Peter Stonebridge, NHS Tayside Medical Director, said, “Our cancer team in Tayside operates with one clinical oncologist who delivers the specialist radiotherapy service for breast patients. 

“We have been making all efforts to recruit to this post that will become vacant soon. There is a national shortage of these specialist clinicians and we, and others, are finding it hard to recruit, despite the best efforts of teams across the organisation.

“That leaves us with a gap in the radiotherapy part of our service – and this is the treatment that will now be delivered at one of the other specialist cancer centres.”

He added: “Our preference is that every aspect of the breast cancer pathway would be delivered in Tayside. However, we must be able to deliver a safe service for our patients and the key aspect of being able to achieve this is the availability of the necessary specialist clinical workforce required on a longer-term, sustainable footing. 

“As part of a mutual aid response, the teams at the four cancer centres have worked together to develop plans to deliver the radiotherapy part of the Tayside pathway, an arrangement which is already in place at the other cancer centres for a number of other Health Boards. 

“We have already contacted patients who are due to start their radiotherapy over the next few weeks to discuss their arrangements and Tayside’s clinical teams will keep patients updated directly.

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to look at all the available options open to us to restore the radiotherapy part of the patient pathway in Tayside. We remain committed to delivering services locally, as long as it is safe for patients and, in this case, that requires the provision of the suitable specialist medical workforce.”

Aside from breast cancer radiotherapy, other cancer site radiotherapy sessions are still running locally in Tayside.

Patients affected by having to travel to another health board will have one of the specialist breast nurses as a direct link throughout their whole journey to provide continuity of care and make sure patients are fully supported by the Tayside team through all stages of their treatment and do not need to worry about travel or accommodation in another city as this will be arranged for them.