2 March 2024

Lung health checks to continue despite cable theft

by Rebecca Hannant

Lung screening services will continue in Withernsea despite the theft of power cables.

Sometime last week the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check unit in the town was targeted by thieves who cut through the cables.

However, the Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance says that appointments will continue.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that the generator which powers the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check unit located at the leisure centre in Withernsea has sustained damage recently. We can confirm that the generator cables have been cut and the incident has been reported to Humberside Police for investigation.

“We are working with our partners who help us to deliver the Lung Health Check service in Withernsea to repair the damage as quickly as possible.

“We are doing everything we can to keep any disruption to the Lung Health Check service to a minimum and will contact any patients whose scheduled appointments need to be rearranged.”

“If you do not hear from the Lung Health Check team before your appointment, please assume this means your appointment is going ahead as planned and attend your appointment.”

The latest incident is one of a series of cable thefts reported by NHS services in the area in recent weeks.

On November 23, electrical cables powering the breast screening service near Withernsea Leisure Centre were stolen, while a second theft was reported on December 7.

The incidents had a severe impact on the services with some appointments delayed and eventually cancelled, with people invited to go to Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham instead.

Women are invited for screening every three years in a matter of routine, and as the mobile unit rotates to different locations accordingly, NHS officials say it would now take another three years for the unit to return to Withernsea again.

Meanwhile, the loss of the services was felt across the community as patients faced long travel times and struggles with parking.

Mandy Willingham, of Patrington, said: “I had a cancellation at the unit before Christmas, but my appointment was rearranged. I drove myself, I arrived with 20 minutes to park despite the traffic being heavy due to the roadworks near Waitrose, and spent a very distressing 45 minutes attempting to park along with around 20 other cars trying to park.

“I asked security if I could park on a waiting area. Understandably, I was told that I risked a fine. As there was no prospect of the situation improving, I rang to cancel as I was already 15 minutes late and asked for an early morning rearrangement in the hope that this would be better.

“I worry for anyone having an emergency appointment. I admit to being distressed as I like to be independent, but this was totally out of my control.

“This procedure is not pleasant at the best of times, and I feel the loss of the mobile unit will impact ‘outlying’ patients greatly yet again. “I understand completely why it has been pulled but the actions of a few have ended up punishing many innocent women. I travelled from work in Hull, taking time off to go.”

Kerry Allerston, of Ottringham, said: “It disgusted me that someone could do this to such a valuable service.

“It was the Withernsea mobile unit that possibly saved my life in November. It was there I was screened and then diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Because of the screening I have had treatment and an operation, and I am now all clear.

“After many visits to Castle Hill, I can agree that car park is shocking. There is nowhere to park and at least 20 cars all fighting and causing chaos with nowhere to go. There are building works on every car park and the hospital encourages travel by public transport, which is a bit difficult when you live 20 miles away.

“When you do arrive for your appointment, you’re either late or suffering anxiety and stress with the parking chaos. The unit in Withernsea was a lifesaver for me and many other ladies and now it’s gone.

“It is bad enough to have the fear of breast cancer and going for screening without the added stress of parking and long-distance travel on top. I would like to see the unit back in Withernsea or the Holderness area to help us ladies and encourage other ladies to attend their screenings without having the stress of travel and parking issues on top.”

Liz Downing, of Easington, added: “My appointment was cancelled. I got a new one at Castle Hill, but it is too far to travel from Easington.”

Meanwhile, a man who wished to remain anonymous has offered to pay a reward of £100 for information leading to the arrest of anyone in connection with the theft.

He told the Gazette: “I was appalled. This has already happened twice with the breast screening. And these services aren’t going to come back, are they? We’re stranded enough down here.

“I just thought it might trigger a response, and if anybody else wanted to add to it. If nothing comes of it, it can go to Cancer Research.”