Calls for breast screening improvements

Recommendations have been made to improve breast cancer screening.
Recommendations have been made to improve breast cancer screening.

A series of recommendations to improve the breast screening process has been made following a report by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

The report, entitled ‘Review of the Scottish Breast Screening Programme December 2016’, follows the identification of 3,831 women who had not been sent a routine invitation to be screened.

National Services Division (NSD) is responsible for commissioning and performance managing the national Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP).

The report states that it was unclear who was responsible for the handling of the issue and that the new IT system in place will help to address a number of issues, but it will require ongoing monitoring to ensure that any future risks are appropriately dealt with.

All women identified as not being called for their routine appointment have been contacted and offered the chance to make a fresh appointment. By November 2016, 41 per cent of women had still to take up that offer. This is a significantly lower uptake than would be expected for breast screening in Scotland.

NSD, in conjunction with the Scottish Breast Screening Centres, have been asked by Healthcare Improvement Scotland to urgently review whether every reasonable step has been taken to enable this group of women the opportunity to attend a screening appointment.

Professor Stephen W. Duffy, chair of the Review Group, said: “Effective and timely breast screening for women is crucial in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. Clearly the vast majority of women in Scotland receive their invitation to be screened in a timely manner, but it’s important that all women are given the opportunity to be screened at the earliest opportunity.

“This report clearly demonstrates that more needs to be done to ensure that this happens for every woman eligible for screening in Scotland.”

Claire Sweeney, interim director of Quality assurance for Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: “We are encouraged by the response of NSD to our report’s findings and recommendations. Although the new IT system will help ensure that every woman eligible for screening is invited to attend, ongoing monitoring will be required to ensure that the system is working effectively for all women. We will continue to closely track the situation.”

Professor Marion Bain, medical director, NHS National Services Scotland, added: “We are very sorry for the worry this has caused women in Scotland.

“We welcome the findings of the Healthcare Improvement Scotland Report on the review of the Scottish Breast Screening Programme.

“All of the women who had not been invited for screening within a three year interval have been contacted, and we have established an adverse events team to ensure that every reasonable step has been taken to enable them to have the opportunity to attend breast screening.”

Visit www.nsd.scot.nhs.uk for more information and advice.