FEARS that the breast cancer unit will be moved from Dorset County Hospital have sparked protest plans.

Patients and supporters of the breast cancer unit at the county hospital say they have been told by hospital staff that the unit could close and essential services moved to Poole Hospital.

The fears for the cut in services came after the Echo exclusively revealed three weeks ago that 200 jobs would go and services would be cut at DCH in order to balance the hospital’s £7.5million deficit. Now the West Dorset Breast Cancer Support Group is heading a campaign to save the breast care unit.

Former breast cancer patient Wendy Nightingale, of Marsh-wood, said she was ‘horrified’ to hear that part of the breast cancer unit might be axed.

She said: “I was in the unit three years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer and all I can say is that the support I got was excellent.

“The staff were always there to support and encourage me and I find it absolutely unbelievable that this could be a service that is earmarked.”

Now Wendy, treasurer of the breast cancer charity, will be joined by hundreds of other patients, women, their husbands and families and will take to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the closures.

Wendy said moving any of the services from Dorchester for centralisation would not only put a strain on Poole’s facilities but also be a real trek for cancer sufferers.

She added: “One in nine women will suffer breast cancer at some time in their lives and many more suffer a bad scare.

“This is a very anxious and worrying time for women and their families.”

Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Christmas three years ago and was seen 12 days later by a consultant and received surgery a month later.

She added: “There are many complaints about the NHS but I do not think I would have received faster or better treatment if I had gone privately.”

The breast care unit at DCH has been extended and refurbished and is known as one of the best in the country.

After a long campaign, supporters raised a large amount of money to help with the refurbishment, and new chemotherapy unit was opened in April. Dorset County Hospital medical director Dr Nick Hateboer said: “The breast cancer service is highly regarded and we want it to remain at Dorset County Hospital.

“We have recently taken short-term steps to ensure the service continues, and are looking at how we can best secure the long-term future of this very important service.”

Dr Hateboer added that the chemotherapy unit was not under review and would remain at DCH.

Wendy is already backed by hundreds of women in cancer help charities but is urging supporters to turn up and be counted.

The protest will start at 10am on Tuesday, December 1, in the Dorset County Hospital car park between entrances S1 and N1.

An online petition is also running at http://petitions.number 10.gov.uk/DorsetCancer/ n If you have received treatment for breast cancer and have concerns about the service, contact Miriam Phillips on 01305 830985 or miriam.phillips@dorsetecho.co.uk