[holding answer 8 November 2007]: People who live in deprived areas are less likely to attend for screening. For example, for cultural and religious reasons, women from minority ethnic groups are less likely to accept invitations for screening than the general population as a whole. Language and access to acceptable and meaningful information can also be a significant barrier and can affect coverage levels.
The national informed choice leaflet, Breast Screening: The Facts, which is sent out with every invitation for screening, has now been translated into 19 languages. In December 2003, National Health Service Cancer Screening Programmes published Inequalities of Access to Cancer Screening: A Literature Review. The recommendations in the review have been sent to all local screening programmes. It is for primary care trusts, in close collaboration with their local screening programmes and stakeholders, to decide how best to provide and promote breast screening services for their local populations.
On a national level, a paper on inequalities will be discussed by the United Kingdom National Screening Committee (NSC) at their next meeting on 20 November. The NSC will consider what future action should be taken to reduce inequalities in our screening programmes.
Inequalities in cancer screening are also being considered as part of the development of the new cancer reform strategy, which we hope to publish by the end of the year. An equality impact assessment will also be published alongside the strategy.