Cannell hits back at critics

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Brenda Cannell has hit back at claims that she misinformed people in the row with the Department of Health over the breast care service.

At last week’s sitting the Douglas East MHK failed to get Tynwald support for her motion that a ‘dedicated consultant breast care surgeon should be appointed rather than a general surgeon with an interest in breast (surgery)’.

She was accused of misleading the public in her campaign to protect the service from what she sees as a ‘dilution’ in service, if the department’s plans go ahead.

Mrs Cannell has admitted it was inaccurate of her to tell Association of Breast Surgery president Richard Rainsbury the department wished to advertise for a ‘general surgeon with an interest in breast and an interest in urology’.

But she said urology was part of the duties of the post in the draft job description – and that Tynwald members only found out it had been removed in a revised draft shortly before the debate last Tuesday.

Asked about claims from the department that she had been misinforming people, she said: ‘I haven’t been. I have been talking to and taking advice from experts in the field of surgery.

‘Other than the urology bit everything else still stands.

‘The department say inaccuracies suggesting there is more than one. They don’t tell you what they are because all the information and the research is accurate.’

Mrs Cannell believes Mr Rainsbury still backs her campaign for a pure breast surgeon and that he has not changed his stance after the Department of Health contacted him.

In an email to the department he said: ‘I understand that the post is for a general surgeon with an interest in breast surgery, and not with interests in breast surgery and urology, as I was led to believe.

‘Clearly this type of job description reflects similar appointments in other islands around the UK or geographically remote locations on the mainland, where there is an imperative to provide comprehensive cover for surgical emergencies.’

He added: ‘The national trend is to appoint pure breast surgeons. Those surgeons appointed to general/breast jobs who only carry out abdominal surgery in emergencies lose their skills fairly quickly, and subsequently come off call because a lack of ongoing elective experience in abdominal surgery.

‘The situation may be avoidable by appointing someone with broad general/abdominal experience who also has a specialist breast interest – but in reality this is a very big ask given the pace of sub specialisation in breast surgery.’

Mr Rainsbury told the department there was ‘clear evidence’ breast cancer rates were not levelling off.

And he said that several factors will ‘increase rather than reduce pressure on breast services in the future’.

He said: ‘Access to two lists per week will help to address this demand in the short/medium term, but operating time will need to be increased in the future unless reconstruction is provided off-island.’

Referring to a review of the service carried out by Chris Holcombe, Mr Rainsbury said the two main options listed – a visiting breast surgeon providing the service or a service provided by an island-based general surgeon with a breast interest – ‘both seem to be viable options’.

But he added: ‘Progressive sub specialisation during the intervening years since the report supports the third option – the pure breast surgeon with no on-call commitment.’

• Brenda Cannell wrote to Association of Breast Surgery president Richard Rainsbury for his opinion on proposed changes to the breast care service.

Isle of Man Newspapers contacted the department after Mrs Cannell circulated her email correspondence with Mr Rainsbury in advance of her motion in Tynwald.

A department spokesman said there were ‘clear inaccuracies in the information provided to Mr Rainsbury by Mrs Cannell’, which had now been clarified.

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