DEVASTATED patients left with a life-long condition after battling breast cancer have hit out at the closure of a vital clinic.

The Tele revealed recently that Ardgowan Hospice had axed its lymphoedema service to save money.

But now the local support group - who have raised thousands of pounds for equipment - warn that people will no longer get the specialist care they need.

Following treatment for breast cancer members were left with chronic lymphoedema, which can lead to life-threatening infections.

But with care and support of the lymphoedema specialist nurse at the hospice they have been able to control their condition - until now.

Patient Mary Lewis, 65, from Gourock said: "We want to know who is going to care for us now. I think that is the question.

"If the hospice can't run the service, who will? This service is lifeline to us."

Patients like Mary were previously referred to the lymphoedema nurse at the hospice to treat their complex needs.

The support group helped to fundraise, runs exercise classes and provide help ans support.

Mary added: "The nurse is always on the other end of the phone. Anytime we needed anything we could just get in touch."

"This is a serious condition."

Lymphoedema nurse Elizabeth Jennings built up the clinic before the hospice announced it was to go as part of their funding cuts.

Now the patients will have to wait to be referred to a service in Glasgow.

Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and faced chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a mastectomy. After the surgery she started to experience swelling in her arms.

Mary added: "They don't tell you about lymphoedema at all. I had no idea what it was until it happened, but it affects your every day life for the rest of your life."

One in three breast cancer patients are left with the chronic condition as a result of damage to their lymph glands. If left untreated it hardens and can result in life-threatening infections like cellulitis.

Gourock lady Anne MacRater, 81, also relied on the service.

She too was left with lymphoedema from breast cancer and now has bone cancer.

Anne said: "It is a real shame we have lost the service, it was support and company."

Outraged Margaret Mallon, 75, from Greenock, has suffered from Lymphoedema for the last six years.

She said: "We are patients and we have been failed. We are all devastated and very angry. After the service stopped we received a letter, there was no consultation.

"We raised around £10,000 through our support group to keep it going."

The clinic had more than 300 patients.

Volunteer Flora Taylor worked closely with the patients and the nurse.

She said: "I saw first hand the wonderful work Elizabeth did and the impact it had on the women."

Ardgowan Hospice chief executive Linda McEnhill told the Tele that they were forced to make cuts to protect their main inpatient unit and other services. She said that the service was fully funded by donations and they could not longer afford it.

Mrs McEnhill added: "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.

"We can no longer afford to do this."