Cancer diagnosis will be sped up for tens of thousands of women after the government pledged an additional £10 million to provide 29 new NHS breast cancer screening units and nearly 70 life-saving upgrades to services in areas where they are most needed. 

The life-saving investment includes 16 new mobile breast screening units, 13 additional static units, 58 live remote access upgrades for existing units and ten software upgrades to carry out ultrasounds and X-rays. 

These new units and service upgrades will allow more women to be screened earlier improving outcomes for patients. Screening will be focused at sites where it is most needed, tackling health disparities and improving diagnosis rates in line with the NHS Long Term Plan. 

This investment will also help deliver a more accessible NHS where patients receive care close to home.

Minister of State for Health, Helen Whately, said: 

Catching cancer early saves lives. Last year 100,000 people were diagnosed with cancer at stages one and two. This is the highest proportion on record but we want to do better still.

These breast cancer screening units will mean more people can get checked for cancer, closer to home.

Most people will get the reassurance of an all-clear but for those who are diagnosed, catching their cancer early is the best thing we can do – and gets them on the path to early treatment too.

The mobile units will be used flexibly to target areas which will most benefit from increased opportunities for screening and the static units will be placed in areas to improve accessibility, uptake and coverage. 

Those areas with existing units will also benefit from upgrades to improve screening by using the latest technology, ensuring the best possible care for patients. 

The funding is now in place for NHS trusts to spend within the 2022/23 financial year and the timing for delivery of units will be individual to each trust.

Steve Russell, NHS national director for screening and vaccinations, said:

Screening is vital in detecting breast cancer early and getting better outcomes for patients, and this further investment is great news for improving access to breast screening services for women across England.

This funding will help increase screening rates amongst women from communities and regions where uptake is lowest by improving  facilities in both fixed and mobile locations, making it easier for more women to get checked, and we encourage anyone invited for a screening to take up their appointment without delay and help us catch cancers earlier when they are easier to treat.

The commitment to provide additional breast screening units was made in the Women’s Health Strategy published in July 2022 which is designed to improve equality of healthcare.  

The government has also committed to improving diagnosis, treatment and survival rates as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. By 2028, the government has committed to 75% of people with cancer being diagnosed at stages 1 and 2, up from 55% and for 55,000 more people each year to survive their cancer for at least five years after diagnosis. 

Continued investment in mobile breast screening units is one of the best ways to increase capacity – screening saves around 1,300 women every year with around 21,000 cancers detected. This is why each year more than two million women have breast cancer screening in the UK. 

Ciarán Norris, Head of Campaigns & Public Affairs at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

We welcome any intervention that helps to speed up diagnosis and improve access to cancer screening services, particularly in areas where they are most needed, as we know the earlier someone is diagnosed the better their outcome is likely to be.

Alongside this, we also look forward to working with the government on steps to grow and sustain the cancer workforce, to ensure our cancer services can provide timely treatment and care for everyone living with cancer, both now and in the future.

The government say they will continue to work with the NHS across cancer alliances, primary care networks and regional teams to increase the uptake of breast screening.  

Alongside this, Breast Screening Offices (BSO) are running extra screening sessions to clear any remaining mammogram backlog, although a large number of services have recovered. The ‘NHS National Demand and Capacity Tool’ and NHS national round length planning tool have been developed and implemented to deliver better support and intervention so the best possible care can be given to patients.

Yesterday (Wednesday 11 January), Downing Street hosted a breast cancer awareness coffee morning attended by breast cancer charities, NHS breast cancer specialists, breast cancer campaigners and those living with or who have survived breast cancer. The event was hosted by Mrs Murty and Mrs Cleverly.

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