ARDGOWAN Hospice is to axe a vital service which offers treatment to cancer patients left with a life-long condition.

As part of a recent round of cuts to secure the future of the hospice the lymphoedema service, regarded as a 'jewel in its crown', will close down.

A specialist nurse from the hospice, the only one in Inverclyde, helps patients manage the condition, caused by damage from life-saving cancer treatments.

Patients suffer severe swelling in limbs and it can have a huge impact on the lives of those affected.

From now on people in Inverclyde with lymphoedema will now have to go to Glasgow for treatment.

Chief executive Linda McEnhill told the Tele that the service was fully funded by donations and they could not longer afford it.

Mrs McEnhill said: "The Ardgowan Hospice lymphoedema service has been running for many years.

"Sadly, although this service has been of great benefit to many people, it has never been commissioned and we have always provided 100 per cent funding with the support and generosity of our local community.

"Lymphoedema care is the responsibility of the acute sector and continues to be provided in Glasgow and therefore we have had to take the very difficult decision to discontinue the provision of this service at Ardgowan Hospice.

"We are sad to find ourselves in this difficult but unavoidable situation."

As part of a restructuring programme hospice bosses have been forced to save £200,000 this year.

The chief executive says the hospice must secure the future of in-patient unit and other services.

Lymphoedema affects one in three breast cancer patients.

It can cause uncontrollable swelling in arms, leaving patients with limited use of the affected limb, and has to be managed every single day.

Many patients have to wear compression sleeves round the clock and this has a huge impact on their lives and their recovery.

The specialist nurse at Ardgowan provides treatments to manage the condition and improve it.

The hospice spent £55,000 a year on the service, with a caseload of almost 200 patients at any one time.

In August the hospice announced a massive round of savings in a bid to balance its books.

The chief executive added:"As part of the restructuring process we have had to prioritise those services which are commissioned, for example our in-patient unit and community services, those which are income generating or those where we are the only provider of that particular service.

"Ardgowan Hospice, like many throughout the UK, has in recent years accrued an ongoing and increasing deficit.

"We continue to work very hard to find new ways to raise funds, however given reduced reserves Ardgowan Hospice has this year had to reconsider all of the services that we provide to reduce our operational budget.

"This is to ensure that we are able to continue to provide the best quality end of life and supportive care long into the future."