Statistics from the NHS Breast Screening Programme in England show a slight increase in uptake of routine invitations for the first time since 2011.

Thursday 23 February 2017      Campaigns and policy
Breast screening

Uptake of routine invitations to screening amongst women aged 50-70 has risen for the first time since 2011, according to new statistics from the NHS Breast Screening Programme in England (2015-16) published today by NHS Digital. The new figures include data on women invited for breast screening, coverage, uptake of invitations, outcomes of screening and cancers detected.

In 2015-16, 72.1% took up their invitation to be screened and were screened adequately within six months of invitation, compared to 71.3% in 2014-15. While attendance to screening in London did increase slightly (from 62.6% to 64.9%), it was the only region in the country to remain below the 70% target as a whole.

Mia Rosenblatt, Assistant Director of Policy and Campaigns at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We’re encouraged to see a slight increase in the uptake of breast screening in England, following years of decline. However, so many women are still missing out on the benefits of screening – with a significant number of Breast Screening Units even missing the 70% uptake target – and the reasons behind this must be investigated.

“Comprehensive evidence shows that screening prevents deaths from breast cancer and it’s vital that we improve attendance across the country.

“While screening does carry some risks, these are outweighed by the benefits and we’d encourage all women to attend where possible. Ultimately, the earlier breast cancer is found, the more likely treatment is to be successful.

“Unfortunately, the Screening Programme continues to face uncertainty over staffing and this needs to be urgently addressed. The mammography workforce currently has a 15% vacancy rate, while over half of current practitioners are expected to retire in the next 15 years. Renewed investment in the recruitment and training of the next generation of experts will therefore be crucial to ensuring this vital programme remains sustainable.”