MORE than 30 women dressed as country singer Dolly Parton have staged a noisy town centre protest against the closure of a breast cancer clinic.
Leading the stetson-wearing, line-dancing protestors was Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, who said she was “thrilled” at size of the gathering.
The MP organised the flashmob event in Darlington to protest against the decision by bosses at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to switch the breast cancer clinic normally held at Darlington Memorial Hospital to Bishop Auckland General Hospital 12 miles away.
Trust officials have apologised for the move, which they say is only temporary and is due to staff shortages. The trust has said it is currently reviewing breast services at the trust and is working with GP commissioners to re-open the clinic.
Mrs Chapman said: “The apology is welcome, but we don’t want to wait six months or 12 months while they have a review, we want the service back now. It should never have been taken away, nobody was consulted. The women of Darlington deserve to be treated better.”
One of the protesters was Jean Walker, 61, who lives in Middleton St George.
Miss Walker, who recently retired after spending 31 years working as a breast cancer nurse in Darlington, said: “I am not happy about the Darlington breast clinic closing. It doesn’t make sense to move it from an area that has a higher population than Bishop Auckland, but I don’t want it to go from either place.”
The mammography machine used by the Darlington breast cancer clinic is out-of-date compared with the more modern digital machine in use at Bishop Auckland, she added.
Rosemary Adams, 67, from Darlington, whose husband, Ernest, has been receiving treatment for breast cancer, a relatively rare problem in men, said: “I want the clinic to come back to Darlington, it’s been very important to us.”
Catherine Stevens, 65, from Darlington, who has just lost a friend to cancer, said: “I think it is disgraceful that the clinic has been moved.”
After the protest staff from the County Durham and Darlington Trust handed out copies of a joint statement from GP commissioners and hospital bosses about the closure of the clinic.
A spokesman for the trust urged women to continue to attend Darlington Memorial Hospital for routine breast screenings, which are not affected by closure of the breast cancer clinic.