"I left the van feeling very upset and angry"

About: Ayrshire Central Hospital / South West Scotland Breast Screening Centre

(as the patient),

On arrival for my scheduled mobile breast screening appointment, I was asked to remove my bra and take a seat in the waiting area. Stupidly I complied and sat with another patient having removed my bra containing my prosthesis. Although the waiting time was short (1min) it left me feeling very uncomfortable, especially having spent the last 14yrs wearing a prosthesis daily to disguise the fact that I have had a mastectomy. I was asked into the radiography suite and then asked a series of question, it shortly became obvious that none of my previous history was known to the staff member. Midway through the questions, it was suggested that I didn't want to be there.  I answered that I had been made to feel very uncomfortable on arrival, having to sit with a complete stranger, not wearing my prosthesis. At this point I left the suite and retrieved my bra and prosthesis, although I was asked to leave it in the cubicle. I then was asked to remove my t-shirt and the discussion resumed.  I felt that the staff's answers were very defensive and in no way apologetic to the point that she said, do I expect to be greeted at the door with the question –Have you had a mastectomy?  

In my opinion, this is no way to treat any patient, having had cancer or not, their people skills were dreadful. It was explained that there is no laundry facilities and therefore no robes can be given out to patients, surely there is a better system? All in all I left the van feeling very upset and angry not what I have come to expect of NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

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Response from Eunice Goodwin, Patient Feedback Manager for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Quality Improvement and Governance Team, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

picture of Eunice Goodwin

Dear salhm,

Breast screening can be emotional enough without the experience fuelling our emotions further. I am so sorry you felt upset and angry after your visit to the mobile breast screening unit and it is not how we hope you will feel either. I can only imagine how you must have felt.

I know that we usually comply with Health care staff requests without question but had it been me, my instinct would have been to ignore this request for our my own comfort and 'protection'. I am sure you had only a few clothes on anyway and therefore, on this occasion, it would not take you long to slip off your top and bra in the room.

I suspect this is your first visit to breast screening but not for a mammogram. Now that you have been once, the details you supplied about previous history should be available on future visits which should help a little. I do whole heartedly hope that this experience does not inhibit you returning every 3 years hereafter.

However, I appreciate this response is not very helpful after the event though and does not address your points. If you would like to contact me with your details I can pass them (in confidence of course) to the Breast Screening Director and Superintendent to look into and allow them to address the points you have raised. Meanwhile I will pass your anonymous post to the service for their consideration.

I can be contacted by email - Eunice.goodwin@aapct.scot.nhs.uk or by calling 01563 826222. Once again, may I say I am sorry that on this occasion, it was not what you expected from NHS Ayrshire and Arran. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Best wishes,


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Response from NHS Ayrshire and Arran We are preparing to make a change

Dear salhm,

I am very sorry that you feel you were not treated with the dignity and professionalism that I would expect from the breast screening staff.

I can only apologise that your experience left you upset and angry.

I have asked that in future all women are given the opportunity to remain in the changing cubicle until taken through to the mammography room. This gives women the choice to join other attendees in the waiting area or to be more private within the changing space.

Only women are allowed on the mobile screening units and most have previously stated a preference for keeping their own top on rather than wearing an NHS gown.

The Service has recently converted from paper recording to a computer based system. The case records have not been available at the time of screening so the radiographers are unaware of the past history of our clients. I have arranged that from now on the previous records are present at screening so that the radiographers can optimise their interactions with women attending their routine screening appointment.

The Superintendent Radiographer has spoken to the staff on duty when you attended and she will remind all the mammographers of the importance of a positive professional manner when interacting with our screening clients.

I hope that these amendments will help optimise breast screening for women as I recognise it can be a very anxious experience.

Elspeth Lindsay

Clinical Director South West Scotland Breast Screening Department

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