Since March 2020, NHS Breast Screening services have been affected by a range of clinical and operational impacts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst NHS England and Improvement did not issue any national directive to change screening services, local breast screening services took the decision to reschedule appointments and invitations for tests to a later date to protect patients from the virus and redeploy staff to support coronavirus-related work. Since that time NHS England and Improvement, as commissioners of breast screening services, have been working with providers to restore services, focussing on the highest priority patient groups first.
Guidance has been issued to services on phase 1 of restoration and recovery to ensure that women who are high risk, have screened positive, whose results were not processed or who were invited but not screened, are invited and have their screening pathway completed. Following this, people who were delayed an invitation will be invited for screening.
For those delayed an invitation (phase 2 of restoration and recovery) guidance will be to select women based on the priorities below:
- Women aged 53 and not previously invited
- Women aged 71+ who were due screening pre-Covid-19 but who have not been screened
- Women aged 50 to 70 years
The following women will not receive any invitations until further notice:
- Self-referrals aged 71 or over: Any women aged 71 or over who contact the service to request an appointment will be advised that self-referrals are not currently available. If women notice any symptoms, they should contact their GP.
- Women in the AgeX trial: Women who were already invited or due an invitation prior to screening being rescheduled will continue to be issued an invite for breast screening as part of the AgeX trial. On completion of screening for these women, all further screening invitations will not include AgeX women until further notice.
Women aged 71 are not able to self-refer at the moment as the immediate priority for the programme is to make sure women that have been identified as being at higher risk (for example because they have a faulty gene which puts them at higher risk of developing breast cancer) are offered the opportunity for a screen as soon as possible.
If you are invited for an appointment, you are encouraged to attend. The NHS has safety measures in place to minimise the risk of people getting coronavirus:
- social distancing will be observed
- there will be additional infection control procedures and clinical staff will be wearing personal protective equipment such as face masks
- your appointment may be at a clinic that is not your usual venue and the appointment may take longer than usual.
Please do not attend an appointment if you or any member of your household are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 or are self-isolating. If this applies to you, please contact your local screening service so that you can reschedule your appointment for a different time.
If you are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, please contact the screening provider to let them know.
In line with government advice, you should wear a face covering to your appointment. This can be a mask that you have bought or made, a face covering worn for religious or cultural reasons (as long as they cover the mouth and nose) or a surgical mask you have been given because you are shielding.
When travelling to and from your appointment, please follow guidelines which include keeping a safe distance from others and travelling by car, bike or walking if possible. Where possible wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser.
As always, anyone who is worried or has symptoms is encouraged to contact their GP practice for advice.