Managing COVID-19: How Manchester’s Nightingale Centre is operating quicker than ever before

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of changes in medical centres around the world, as breast surgeons and radiologists have had to drastically change the way they operate.

To find out how breast units have continued to offer vital cancer treatment at this time, we reached out to a number of different surgeons and physicians around the world in a new Q&A series.

This week, we caught up with consultant breast surgeon James Harvey, and breast radiologist Dr Anthony Maxwell, both from The Nightingale Centre in Manchester, one of the UK’s biggest cities outside of London.

Their centre is the first to be purpose-built for breast cancer prevention in Europe and it has kept its doors open throughout the crisis.

During our conversation, James and Anthony told us how they’ve adapted to the challenges of COVID-19, and why it’s important that patients understand the changes made to increase patient safety.

Changes in the first weeks of lockdown

“Lots of things changed. The first thing was trying to manage the number of patients in the unit and reduce the footfall.”James Harvey - Consultant Breast Surgeon The Nightingale Centre, Manchester, UK

To manage this problem, the Nightingale team introduced a triage process to identify the patients in need of the most urgent care. However they continued to ensure that all patients encountered no critical delays to their pathway – no small achievement, in a world of social distancing and quarantine.

The next challenge was to make sure that the team had theatre space to see these patients in a COVID-free environment. One of the untold stories of this pandemic, James explained, is how NHS and private hospitals have come together to find this space.

"In Manchester, the private clinics have really stepped forward. We’re doing pretty much all our cancer operating within two weeks, quicker than we’ve ever done it.”James Harvey - Consultant Breast Surgeon The Nightingale Centre, Manchester, UK

James has also been working to make sure that his patients only visit hospital when they really need to.

At the point of diagnosis, he marks his patients with the Magseed® marker so that they don’t have to come back to have it placed later on.

Looking beyond lockdown

James and Anthony have put a huge amount of effort in to making sure that the Nightingale has the right facilities for patients to visit at this time.

But, if lockdown was to lift tomorrow, they’re conscious people may still harbour fears about going to hospital. We asked them what patients should still feel confident in visiting medical centres.

“We do our utmost to keep it a clean COVID-free unit. I don’t believe that coming for a visit is any more dangerous than going shopping for half an hour in Tesco.”Dr Anthony Maxwell - Breast Radiologist The Nightingale Centre, Manchester, UK

Want to learn more? Hear how James and Anthony are adapting to these challenging times in the full video at the top of the page.