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Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Andrea's Story - National Apprenticeship Week

Thursday 08th February 2024

It was a birthday sleepover Andrea Jones will never forget, and every February she still remembers that time when her father broke the news her mother had died.

Andrea and the family were prepared in some ways, knowing that her mum Ann had terminal breast cancer, but it was still strange for Andrea to be told she had passed and then return to the sleepover like nothing had happened.

“My father was with her when she passed away,” said Andrea. “My older sister was babysitting us, and I was having a sleepover with friends for my birthday.

“My dad came back and gave us the news. Then I just went back in with my friends and pretended nothing had happened.

“We had known it was coming, so I had said my goodbyes in the days leading up to it. But it was still very upsetting. It was a lot for a young girl to take in.

“She died in the early 1990s and I think as time goes on it does get easier, but I do think about her all the time, and especially around my birthday and Mother’s Day. So this time of year is hard.”

Andrea’s birthday is 26th February and the anniversary of her mother’s passing is 27th February – shortly before Mother’s Day in March. And although it was an incredibly sad and difficult time for the family, it did help inspire Andrea’s career as an Associate Mammographer, where she helps other women with breast cancer. That’s why for National Apprenticeship Week (5th – 11th February 2024) Andrea wants to tell people about her career path and encourage jobseekers to consider a breast screening career.

Andrea originally had a career in beauty therapy and skincare retail, but although she enjoyed the job she always knew she wanted to work in healthcare.

“A few things happened which helped make up my mind I wanted to work in breast cancer care,” explained Andrea. “Firstly, my mother dying, at a time when breast screening had only just really started. My grandma and great-grandma also had breast cancer so I made enquiries with my GP about visiting a family history clinic. I ended up having mammograms and a biopsy at the Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital and I now have them annually.

“When my mother was diagnosed, the idea of working with breast cancer patients felt too close to home, but after my own experiences of the clinic I knew it was what I wanted to do. Everyone was absolutely fantastic there and I knew I wanted to be part of that – helping other people, making a difference and giving something back.”

Fast forward to modern day and Andrea is now proud of her role with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the Trust which manages Wythenshawe Hospital and the breast cancer clinic at the Nightingale Centre.

It’s thanks to an apprenticeship with the National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA) that Andrea is in her new role. And she wants to encourage more people to sign up to the apprenticeship, which is why she is backing the Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal – a joint appeal between our Charity and Prevent Breast Cancer – which will fund a purpose-build extension to the Nightingale Centre specifically designed to train the breast imaging specialists of the future.

The appeal needs to raise the remaining £1.8m to build the NBIA’s training facility to provide training for a generation of breast imaging experts, helping thousands more women in the region get their mammograms.

Currently, the future of UK breast services is under threat. The current breast imaging workforce has a significant shortfall, which will soon have ramifications for the future of mammography services if action isn’t taken. The pandemic has also caused a backlog in mammogram appointments. This, combined with the closing of breast clinics elsewhere in the region due to staff shortages, has heaped on pressure. Put simply – without investment in more staff, the future of mammography in the region is unclear. Investment in training more breast screening clinicians is desperately needed.

Andrea, who lives in Warrington, said: “It is such a good apprenticeship scheme and the NBIA management team really look after you. There is a good structure to the programme – it has a lot of practical aspects, as well as theory, so it’s a good balance.

“Of course it’s also a very rewarding and worthwhile role too.

“I’ve now finished my apprenticeship and really enjoy working with the patients at the Nightingale Centre, especially those in the family history clinic, as I have my own personal experience of those clinics. For me, it’s so rewarding to help other women and know what they’re going through, because I went through it too.”

Elizabeth Coulson, the Senior Manager for Philanthropy at our Charity, is heading up the team behind the Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal. She said: “The Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal will help us to train more people just like Andrea. These future workers, trained by the National Breast Imaging Academy, will be the key to unlocking shorter waiting times, improved outcomes, and increased survival rates. So it’s vital to emphasise that this appeal will help save lives!”

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