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Radiologists’ response to Government announcement of missed breast screening invites 

Public Health England (PHE) has informed us of the computer failure that has meant that since 2009, approximately 450,000 women around the age of 70 did not receive final breast screening invites.

The RCR has great sympathy for those patients who have missed screening appointments as a result, and may now be very understandably concerned they could have undiagnosed cancer.

We have been reassured that PHE is doing everything it can to manage the situation and help trusts arrange catch up appointments for women who have been missed, as well as setting up support for affected patients.

However, this does mean breast screening units across the country may have to arrange additional appointments for thousands of missed patients, which will undoubtedly put even more strain on units that are already stretched to the limit due to staff shortages.

We welcome this afternoon’s announcement from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of an independent review into the incident and IT aspects of the screening programme.

However, the RCR would strongly advise that the investigation’s remit be broadened to analyse urgent workforce pressures within the programme, and we are keen to offer advice and assistance to the review team.

The RCR is working hard to support our breast radiologist members and the units they work in, including exploring options for training more breast radiologists and breast clinicians.

Ultimately, we need funding for more training posts for radiologists to ensure the screening programme – and the NHS as a whole – has the vital imaging doctors it needs to keep up with the ever-increasing imaging demand.

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