Charities unite to call for £3m national training centre for breast cancer professionals

Manchester Foundation Trust Charity and the Prevent Breast Cancer charity have united to launch an appeal for help to fund a new national centre that will train the breast cancer professionals of the future.

The mooted new National Breast Imaging Academy training facility would be located in south Manchester.

The building is planned to be an extension of the Nightingale Centre and Prevent Breast Cancer Research Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT).

Originally developed by a national partnership that was supported by Health Education England (HEE) in 2018, with HEE committing £6 million to establish and deliver training initiatives, the Academy now requires a further £3.2 million to build a bespoke building to host the training programmes in.

With just 18 months to raise the required funds, the two charities have joined forces in the hope of finding support more quickly. While, in support of the need for the investment, the Academy cites research that shows that, since the start of the pandemic, 1.5 million fewer breast screening appointments have been carried out, and it is also estimated that 12,000 people could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer.

It’s hoped that, as well as providing training facilities, the new building could help tackle breast imaging staff shortages and create improved capacity for screening and treating patients by enabling an extra 13,000 patients to be seen each year. In addition, it could also offer additional capacity for research into breast cancer and create job opportunities for the local community.

Dr Mary Wilson, a consultant breast radiologist with MFT, a trustee of Prevent Breast Cancer, and the lead for the National Breast Imaging Academy, said: “Unless we act now and create a building in which to train staff, we will be unable to meet the increased demands over the coming months and years – and more lives will be lost to this disease.

“Even before the coronavirus crisis, many breast services were struggling to diagnose and treat people as quickly as we would want, and the pressure on breast imaging was a big part of this. Given the massive surge in demand we will see over the coming months, without a huge investment in training and support from the public, we will simply be unable to meet the service needs.”

Lester Barr, consultant breast surgeon and founder of Prevent Breast Cancer, added: “Now, more than ever, is a crucial time for fundraising and training, and we urgently need a national academy to train more breast cancer doctors, nurses, radiographers and mammography apprentices, as screening is key to saving lives.

“There is currently an acute shortage of breast imaging experts but the demand for these services continues to rise. As a result, we need more space to undertake our research and to build a workforce for the future, trained and ready to go.

“The National Breast Imaging Academy will help rebuild breast cancer teams across the country, and fulfil our vision as a charity that changes in breast cancer screening, early diagnosis, and prevention strategies can make the disease preventable for the next generation.”

The Academy is also supported by NHS England and Improvement, The Royal College of Radiologists, The Society and College of Radiographers, The British Society of Breast Radiology and the Association of Breast Clinicians.

To find out more about the Academy and the appeal, click here.