Of­fer mam­mo­grams near work to re­verse screen­ing cri­sis, de­mands of­fi­cial re­port

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Ben Spencer

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’

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