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North London Breast Screening Service

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 9 March 2007, Official Report, columns 2303-04W, on the North London Breast Screening Service, what the action plan (a) to recommence breast screening and (b) to clear the backlog is; when she expects the full plan for the recommencement of screening services to be (i) completed and (ii) fully implemented; what other screening units are being considered; what the (A) longest and (B) average time is for which an individual has been waiting for a screening appointment; what the new procedures are which are to be embedded in the service; when she expects to be able to estimate the cost of the reorganisation and consequent additional cost; from which budget the costs will be met; and if she will make a statement. (127576)

[holding answer 15 March 2007]: This is a local matter. However, the trust is currently working towards the completion of detailed plans to reopen the service during April. The service has been subject to an external review by the national breast screening service quality assurance team. The implementation of all the recommendations arising from the review continues to form a key part of the planning process. The trust will be able to confirm the precise arrangements for resuming the service after the review team has completed its work and is expected to have happened by the end of March.

Plans for clearing the backlog are currently being developed as part of the overall planning process to reopen the service. Preliminary contacts have been made with other breast screening units in London to assess the potential for contracting additional capacity from other providers to assist with clearing the backlog.

A full action plan is currently being drawn up for the recommencement of screening services. This will be completed and implemented once the outcome of the external review is known. The full plan is expected to be in place by the end of March.

Patients currently wait an average of three years to be screened in line with national standards. All women currently due for an appointment will have to wait an additional three months due to the temporary closure of the unit.

A number of new procedures are being introduced to ensure the efficient and safe running of the unit in the future, including:

implementation of a comprehensive framework for the management of quality in the breast screening service.

right results guidelines—this deals with the initial suspension issue of ensuring women who have had a normal mammogram are re-invited for an appointment when they mention other possible symptoms during their appointment.

It is important to note that the temporary suspension of the service was not due to financial considerations. However, the additional financial costs for resuming the service will depend on the outcome and recommendations of the quality assurance review. It is therefore not possible to make an estimate of the costs at this time.

The primary care trusts and the trust are in ongoing discussion as to how the costs will be shared between the organisations.