In England, breast screening is currently offered at 3-yearly intervals to women aged from 50 up to their 71st birthday. In 2017/18, 2.54 million women aged 50-70 were invited for breast screening of which 70.5% attended. Early diagnosis is key to improving the likelihood of successful treatment of an ageing population. The NHS breast screening programme has been experiencing decreasing uptake over a number of years. Whilst attendance for breast screening is a personal choice, and this must be respected, it should be an informed choice, and the screening service should be aware of, and able to respond to, the barriers that some population groups face in accessing the service.
As part of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, we are working with the National LGB&T Partnership and other partners, supported by Public Health England, on a project which will identify reasons why some people are not attending for breast screening. Barriers to screening can include physical and communication barriers as well as cultural and social barriers, and there is a current lack of evidence of the barriers to attendance experienced by groups who experience marginalisation and inequalities.
The project will undertake significant consultation through focus groups with various seldom heard groups to identify whether there are issues affecting the different community groups in relation to breast screening. Practical measures to reduce these barriers and reduce variation in participation will be identified, including through consultation with staff working within breast screening services, and outlined in a national toolkit, for use by these staff to better engage and communicate with the various population groups.
Call for Evidence
To support the development of the project, particularly the questions that will be asked of participants in focus groups, we are asking you to share any research, investigations, projects or information you have conducted or are aware of which relates to barriers to accessing screening and preventative care for marginalised groups. Our priority is to consider access to the breast screening programme, but as we know there is limited evidence in this area, we are extending this call to capture all evidence which may shine a light on the issue. We are interested in the experiences of people covered by all 7 main protected characteristics* (age, disability, gender reassignment/trans status, race/ethnicity, religion or belief, sex/gender, sexual orientation), 5 health inequality areas (Gypsy, Roma, or Traveller communities, vulnerable migrants, homeless people, people in contact with the criminal justice system, sex workers), and mental illness, people without English as a first language, people with caring responsibilities and people with experience of sexual violence and/or trauma.
*at this time, the remaining two protected characteristics: marriage/civil partnership and pregnancy/maternity are not key areas for investigation.
How to contribute
Please send any documents and/or links to: firstname.lastname@example.org