Campaigners are demanding answers as fears over the future of West Cumbria’s breast clinic continue to rise.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, West Cumberland Hospital’s breast screening clinic was moved to Cumberland Infirmary for an unspecified – but temporary – time.

Women undergoing tests for breast cancer during the pandemic have been referred to the Carlisle hospital, with breast surgery planned to continue taking place at Whitehaven.

But members of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital (WNWCH) group have once again stressed the importance of seeing the clinic return to the west in a letter to the North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust (NCIC), after “there have been no breast radiology clinics at our hospital in July”, and “even the promised once-weekly breast radiology support has now been withdrawn”.

It was initially suggested to the group that the service will return out west on June 18.

But with the deadline come and gone, members are fearing the worst, and are particularly concerned for West Cumbrian women who are unable to make the almost 44-mile-long journey to Carlisle from Whitehaven.

Louise Bell, of the Think Pink fundraising group – which helped fund the new breast unit at West Cumberland – said: “There’s been no reassurance, no firm commitment from the trust on when or if the clinic is coming back to the west.

“It’s known that Copeland has problems with poverty, and with the current pandemic public transport is still an issue, so it’s a huge worry that the young and more mature women of Copeland might be permanently forced to make the massive journey to Carlisle for a service that can be provided with more dignity and privacy out west.”

The unit was opened one year ago today, on July 29, with the help of Louise and her team, who raise funds in memory of their dearly-missed friend, Karen Ritson.

With designated rooms and its own private clinic, the breast unit offers those experiencing the difficult time of cancer treatment, or going through the early stages of screening.

And as the group raised more than £84,000 over 10 years for the department, they are terrified their hard work may have been a waste of time.

“We as a fundraising group are heartbroken to see the hard work of the group and those who support us going to waste,” Ms Bell said.

“When the clinic was first moved to Carlisle we were reassured it would be a temporary measure, but it’s become more of an ‘if’ than a ‘when’ now, so we’re becoming more and more and more concerned as the weeks go by.”

A spokesman for the trust confirmed it is discussing the best way to resume the clinic in the future, saying: “We are still looking at ways to safely restart this service and we will be engaging with our partners (including the We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group) about this shortly.”