Following publication of the report from the independent breast screening review on 13 December, and the initial statement that I made at the time, I am pleased to now be able to provide the Government’s substantive response to each of the 15 recommendations made by the review.
As I said at the time, it is essential that we take all necessary actions to learn from any problems identified in the breast screening programme. I can now confirm that the Government have accepted all the recommendations made by the independent review team.
In responding to these recommendations, we have also taken account of the findings from the recent investigation into adult screening programmes conducted by the National Audit Office, which was published on 1 February 2019. In some cases, similar issues were highlighted about where improvements can be made in terms of how our national screening programmes are delivered.
A few recommendations are contingent on forthcoming advice from the UK National Screening Committee on how the upper age limit for breast screening should be defined. In the interim, I can confirm that we will maintain the upper age definition of 70 years and 364 days as set out in the current service specification.
In addition, and in line with the statement made at the time, I can confirm that the AgeX trial will continue as planned. The trial will provide significant new evidence on screening women under 50 and over 70 that is not currently available, providing the evidence needed to make decisions about the age range for breast screening in the future.
Some of the areas highlighted for improvement are being considered by Professor Sir Mike Richards as part of his review into cancer screening that was commissioned by NHS England and which was announced on 15 November 2018. Where possible, improvements to the programme are already being taken forward. Where a more considered response is required, it is appropriate to wait for Professor Richards to report and this is reflected in our response. We look forward to receiving Professor Richards’ recommendations in the summer of 2019.