Concerns as more than 6,000 women in Portsmouth miss 'vital' breast screening appointments last year

MORE than 6,000 women in Portsmouth are at risk of missing a cancer diagnosis after failing to attend ‘vital’ breast screening appointments last year.

Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:55 am

The latest NHS England figures show 68 per cent of eligible women in the city were up to date with their screenings at the end of March 2021, meaning 6,409 were not checked.

This was down from 69 per cent the year before and meant health services in the area narrowly missed the national minimum target of 70 per cent coverage.

The screening programme sees women aged between 50 and 71 undergo a mammogram, which is designed to detect cancers that are too small to see or feel, every three years.

More than 6,000 breast screening appointments were missed in Portsmouth last year

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It comes as there was a 44 per cent fall in the number of women who were screened for the disease nationally in 2020/21, while the number who had cancers detected via screening fell by more than a third in the same period.

Healthwatch Portsmouth chairman, Roger Batterbury, described it as a ‘concerning’ trend.

He said: ‘We can understand that women were worried about the effects of pandemic on their personal health in 2020/21 so may not have attended the appointment slot they were offered for what they may have considered a “routine service,” which they could catch up with when things were clearer.

‘Other patients who were due to be screened during 2020 will have received an appointment cancellation notice due to the pandemic. Diagnosis and treatment for cancer remained a prioritised NHS service during the pandemic but breast cancer screening services needed to pause.’

Mr Batterbury added that Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust (PHU) has re-started screenings and will get in touch to offer appointments but warned there could still be ‘quite a delay due to backlogs.’

‘The advice is that if women notice a change in their breast or have symptoms that are causing concern to contact their GP,’ he said.

Portsmouth’s public health boss, Helen Atkinson, said: ‘The NHS encourages all women who are invited to have a breast screening appointment take up the offer; it's not too late to arrange if you've left the invite lying around for a little while either, just follow the instructions on the invite and book your appointment. If you are eligible for screening, make sure your GP has your up-to-date address details so you don't miss your invitation.

‘The NHS screening units are located in a variety of places, including supermarket car parks, to help make it easier for people to get to, you'll be able to find out where your closest unit is when you book your appointment.’

PHU consultant breast surgeon, Masooma Zaidi, added:’We know the pandemic has had an impact on attendances and we would strongly encourage all women to go for screening when they get their invite as treatment is most successful when the cancer is found at an early stage.’

Nationally, 64 per cent of eligible women attended their last check, down from 74 per cent in 2019/20 and the lowest coverage rate on record.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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