It is projected that the next round of BreastCheck will take three years in order to catch up on missed screens and assessments in light of Covid-19.
Under normal circumstances, eligible women are invited for a mammogram every two years. When the BreastCheck programme was paused, there were around 600 women with screen detected abnormalities that needed assessment.
“All women have now been assessed and the majority of women requiring surgery have had their operations and are on a specific care pathway,” said a HSE spokesperson.
The pause in screening and Covid-19 restrictions mean it will take the service many months to catch up on missed screens and assessments. “It is therefore projected that it will take 36 months to complete the current round (screens and assessments completed within a 24-month period) of breast screening. Although we would not wish anyone to have a longer interval for screening in Ireland, there is no evidence that harm will accrue from a delayed screen,” emphasised the spokesperson.
The service will operate at a maximum of half the previous workload up to the end of February 2021, at the earliest, the HSE outlined. The programme has been paused on public health advice since 16 March 2020.
“The pause was put in place to protect patients and staff by complying with social distancing guidelines,” said the spokesperson. “In addition, the HSE temporarily redeployed staff and resources to the response to Covid-19. However, clinical staff have continued to work within the programme.”
The programme is currently working on a new approach to providing screening, including priority invites for those waiting longest.