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National Services Division Commissioning for Scotland's Health

Breast Screening

The Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP) is divided into 6 areas, North East, North, South West, West, East and South East Scotland. The 6 screening centres are based in Aberdeen, Inverness, Irvine, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. Each centre has a static base and provides the screening service to the outlying areas by mobile units.

Breast cancer is more common in women aged over 50 and the SBSP invites women aged between 50 and 70 years old for screening every three years. Women aged 71 and over are encouraged to attend through self referral to their local screening centre. For more public information on the Breast Screening Programme please click on the external link to the NHS Inform Screening Scotland Website and then link to the Breast Screening section.

During 2011/12 (statistics one year in arrears) the SBSP screened just under 180,000 women (including those who self referred) and detected just under 1,700 cancers (invasive and non invasive), these women were referred on for treatment.

Performance Standards, at 31st March 2012:

  • Looking at three year performance standard attendance figures, uptake has dropped slightly from 74.9% in 2008-11 to 74.5% in 2009-12.
  • Greater Glasgow and Clyde were the only NHS Board not to meet the minimum performance attendance standard of >70% of women invited during the previous three years. The attendance rate for Greater Glasgow and Clyde was 70.8% in 2008-11 but dropped slightly to 69.8% in 2009-12.
  • In 2011-12, all but one of the NHS Breast Screening Programme Minimum Performance Standards and all but 3 of the 13 targets were met.
  • Approximately 1,700 cases of screen detected breast cancer were diagnosed in women of all ages.
  • Over 80% (1,406 cases) of cancers detected were invasive, of which over half were less than 15mm in size.
  • The proportion of cancers for which diagnosis was confirmed pre-operatively is slightly higher than last year at 97.0%, representing an increase of 43% since 1997. This reduces the number of women requiring two operations.

The programme has undergone significant developments over the years; however, there had never been a full national review of the service. It was agreed necessary to undertake a formal review of the way the service is delivered to ensure that it can adapt to meet future challenges, and remain a sustainable high quality and equitable breast screening service for women aged 50 to 70 resident in Scotland, and in the most clinically and cost effective way.

The review has now concluded and has been presented to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing for approval.

The review was conducted by National Services Division and aimed to ensure the screening programme remained effective and sustainable given the need to:

  • Replace older analogue screening equipment with digital technology which will require a change in working practices
  • Recruit and retain sufficient, suitably trained staff for the service in the future
  • Continue to meet the new cancer waiting times targets of 62 days from referral to treatment.

A number of recommendations have been made for future service delivery; with the intention of putting women at the heart of planning, and ensuring that the programme offers flexibility around screening appointments, whilst making optimal use of mammography assets. The final report of the review group remains embargoed until it has been approved by the Cabinet Secretary. 

Further information regarding the review can be found on the Breast Screening Review web page.

In October 2012, as part of the Detect Cancer Early initiative, the Cabinet Secretary announced funding to transform the programme from its current analogue equipment to digital mammography. Roll out is now taking place in Scotland and is planned to conclude in 2015.

For useful information and links to other Breast Screening organisations, please click the Breast Screening information or the link to Breast Screening - other sources of information.

Contact details for the screening centres are available on the Scottish Breast Screening Centres page.

National Services Division contacts:

To contact members of NSD staff, please visit our staff contacts page.

Carol Colquhoun, National Screening Coordinator