Modernising breast screening services

Review of breast screening programme published.

A major review of Scotland’s breast screening programme which makes 17 recommendations to strengthen and improve it has been published  

The report recommends ways to make the breast screening programme more accessible, resilient and sustainable, to drive improvements and build upon successful delivery of services. These include developing a single programme-wide workforce plan that focuses on role development and redesign, training capacity, leadership for major developments which will help to automate aspects of activity, and benchmarked staffing levels. It also recommends digital initiatives, including exploring the potential for adoption of Artificial Intelligence in breast screening mammography.

A new Breast Screening Modernisation Programme Board, chaired by Dr Marzi Davies, will take forward the recommendations from the report as well as considering additional ways to modernise the service.

Separate to the modernisation work, the Scottish Breast Screening Programme will see those aged 71 years and over being able to opt to self-refer for appointments once again from autumn 2022, in a phased way which won’t impact on the main screening programme.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:

“I welcome this report and I am very grateful for the work that went into it while our NHS faced immense pressures in responding to the pandemic.

“We accept all of the recommendations, many of which are already being progressed, such as reinstating self-referral services for those aged 71 years and over, and others that will require careful consideration and planning. 

“It sets out a number of key learning points and opportunities for improving how we do things, and while it was commissioned pre-COVID-19, it’s important to note that the breast screening programme is still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic. Among our immediate priorities is ensuring that there is sufficient capacity for women aged between 50-70, the recommended screening population, to be invited for screening every three years.   

“I’m pleased Dr Davies has agreed to chair the breast screening modernisation programme to drive forward key ambitions.”

Breast Screening Modernisation Programme chair Dr Marzi Davies said:

“The publication of this review and the establishment of the Breast Screening Modernisation Board represent an exciting opportunity to ensure resilience and deliver a sustainable, more person-centred breast screening programme in Scotland. I’m privileged to have been asked to lead this work, which will drive improvements in a number of areas and build upon an already high-quality and effective service.”


Scottish Breast Screening Programme: major review  

Dr Marzi Davies has been a consultant Breast and General radiologist since 1991, with 30 years’ clinical experience in Breast Radiology. For the last five years, Dr Davies was Clinical Director for GG&C Breast Imaging and the West of Scotland Breast Screening Service. She has wide experience in Breast Imaging as a Radiologist, teacher and manager within Greater Glasgow and Clyde and nationally. She still retains some active clinical input contributing to the training of Advanced Radiography practitioners via the Scottish Academy of Breast Imaging.

The Scottish Breast Screening Programme was paused between March and August 2020 because of COVID-19. When services restarted, priority was given to women between 50-70 years old, for whom there is clear scientific evidence of the benefits of screening. While programme capacity remains challenging due to COVID-19, there remains a pause on self-referrals for those over the age of 71 in order to allow appointments to be prioritised for the recommended screening population. However, work is underway to explore ways to restart the self-referral route by Autumn 2022, in a way that does not unduly impact on screening of the eligible cohort, and with a number of factors being worked through.   


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