A MAJOR supermarket chain has driven away a mobile life-saving cancer unit used by thousands of customers – leading to fears at-risk patients could miss vital appointments.
Morrisons had hosted the vital NHS unit in the car park of its Portobello Road store for the last 12 years – but this year health chiefs have had to move after being dealt a major snub.
They were told the unit could only continue to operate from the convenient site if they signed up for £5m public liability costs – and if they agreed to be charged £750 for any clean-up costs.
The demand was branded unreasonable by NHS insiders and meant the unit, which serves 2500 women in the area, had to be moved to an Asda store nearly three miles away.
Hundreds of letters have had to be resent to invite patients to appointments at the new site.
But the move has prompted fears some women could miss a breast screening appointment – leading to vital early warning cancer signs being missed.
Lochend councillor Alex Lunn said he had been contacted by dozens of constituents who felt they were unable to get to the new site.
He said it was ridiculous that Morrisons was “turning its back on its own customers” and worried it could lead to missed diagnoses.
He said: “I have had a lot of constituents getting in touch, a lot of them are elderly, and they are very angry about it. Many of them are saying they won’t go to ASDA as it’s too far for them. It’s a real mess.
“I would imagine there could be serious personal consequences for some people which is very worrying.
“I’m very disappointed by Morrisons’ decision.”
An NHS source said they had always had a good relationship with the local Morrisons and the problem arose when the supermarket’s head office got involved.
She said: “The store manager of Morrisons was in agreement for us to go there but had to run it past head office who said we could only go if we followed a very detailed contract agreement which included being liable for all damage.”
The issue has been raised at various community councils, including Northfield and Willowbrae and Craigentinny and Meadowbank, and there was even talk of boycotting the store. Cancer charities warned it was vital the life-saving service, which has a 72 per cent take-up in the Capital, was easily accessible.
Dr Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health and Health Policy, NHS Lothian, said: “Women have been advised of the change in location and we will continue to review the sites and options for mobile screening units based on the views of local women.”
A Morrisons spokeswoman said both clauses were “standard elements in our contracts for car-park events.” ASDA said they were happy to support any breast cancer awareness campaign and did not feel they needed additional public liability insurance for the unit.