BREAST TEST IN YOUR LUNCH HOUR
Offer mammograms near work to reverse screening crisis, demands official report
WOMEN must be offered lunchtime mammograms or smear tests to halt a collapse in screening rates, a report demands today.
The official review said breast and cervical cancer tests should be made far more convenient. Women would be able to have them carried out at surgeries and clinics near work, instead of at their GP.
Millions of lives are in danger because routine screening is at an all-time low; the latest take-up rate is just 71 per cent. Commissioned by the NHS, the 136-page report warns that poor leadership has created ‘confusion, delays and risks to patient safety’.
It highlights alarming research suggesting half of those who fail to attend screening appointments did not find the time or simply forgot to go.
Sir Mike Richards, the former national clinical director for cancer who wrote the report, called for radical
change to address the crisis. ‘Every day of delay is a missed opportunity to catch a person’s cancer or disease at an earlier point, and potentially save their life,’ Sir Mike said.
As well as more convenient sessions, he calls for GPs to be given financial incentives to offer appointments in the evenings and at weekends.
Cervical screening attendance is at its worst level in 21 years – with just 71 per cent of the eligible population up to date on their tests. Breast screening uptake for women aged 50 to 70 is at its lowest since records began in 2003, at just 70 per cent.
And the bowel cancer programme for men and women has failed to reach its target of screening 60 per cent of the population, with 1.8million of those eligible missing out. Today’s report, commissioned after a number of screening blunders last year, calls for a wholesale reformation of the screening programme. Sir Mike suggests Public Health England is stripped of responsibility for running screening – with all functions to be handed instead to NHS England.
That proposal was last night approved by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
And Sir Mike called for the rules that govern screening to be overhauled.
‘People live increasingly busy lives and we need to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to attend these important appointments,’ he added. Women should be able to choose appointments at doctors’ surgeries, health centres or locations close to their work during breaks rather than having to attend their own GP practice, he suggested.
Screening programmes are organised by GP surgeries, which means cervical testing, for example, is done either at the doctors’ practice or at a council-run sexual health clinic.
For breast screening, women will go to a scanning clinic, usually at the hospital nearest their GP surgery.
Women who work in a different area find it very difficult to access screening appointments during the working week - because they can only be tested near home. Sir Mike proposes making the system much more flexible so women can pick and choose where they are tested.
Robert Music of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: ‘We need to see quick and decisive action as a result of the recommendations before we are confident that the change needed will take place.
‘We have long been calling for more accessible appointments, with women able to book and attend screening at locations other than the GP they are registered with, and are pleased to see this referenced. ‘This is not a simple move and we look forward to seeing a roadmap to making this happen.’
Lynda Thomas of Macmillan Cancer Support said: ‘Screening and early detection can improve and even save their lives, and we now urgently need the Government to implement the recommendations in this review.’
‘Potentially saving their life’