The review was launched in 2022, following the discovery that a number of people had waited longer than the usual 60 working days from enrolment in the service to being offered a mammogram appointment.
“We sincerely apologise again to everyone who experienced a delay in being offered a timely mammogram through BSC,” said interim lead Hospital & Specialist Services Jamie Duncan.
“We cannot begin to imagine the distress and trauma that people and whānau have experienced, and we continue to offer them counselling and support.
“Since becoming aware of this issue we have cleared the backlog of people awaiting mammogram appointments, and have ensured that 90 percent of people enrolled in BSC are offered an appointment within 60 working days.”
The review team initially focused on 59 people who were not offered an appointment within 60 days and who had received a breast cancer diagnosis. Each case was assessed against the potential for the delay to have caused harm, and reviews were commissioned into 10 cases where it was deemed possible that the delay could have adversely affected the outcome for that person.
“Breast cancers and their treatments are complex, and our review was not able to identify with any certainty what impact earlier screening would have had on the diagnosis and treatment of each of the 10 people identified. The review did find, however, that earlier screening for these people may have meant their cancer was diagnosed at a less advanced stage or required less intensive treatment.
“The safety and wellbeing of people using our service is our highest priority. We acknowledge the potential physical, mental, and emotional effects that these delays may have had and we are sincerely sorry.
“We also recognise that our communication with people who experienced screening delays was not as timely or as comprehensive as it should have been. We should have acted with a greater sense of urgency and communicated better.”
The review also examined BSC’s systems and processes, and identified a number of contributing issues. These include capacity challenges – exacerbated partly by COVID-19 – inadequate communications about delays, monitoring gaps, a complex enrolment system, and more.
A range of recommendations have been made to address these issues and all have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. The findings and recommendations are outlined in the report.
Considerable effort has also gone into exploring ways to improve recruitment and retention of medical imaging technicians (MITs) and to develop three new fixed screening sites in Wellington, the Wairarapa, and Kāpiti. The Wellington and Wairarapa sites are expected to be open and operating in June or July, and work continues to progress the Kāpiti site.
The Wairarapa site (developed in close consultation with local iwi) and Kāpiti site will improve equitable and reliable access as people will not have to wait for the mobile service in order to be screened.
A new Breast and Cervical Equity Team will also be established across the Capital, Coast & Hutt Valley and Wairarapa districts at the end of May to improve cervical and breast screening uptake and address access inequities and other barriers for Māori, Pasifika and disabled populations.
“We welcome the recommendations from the review of the Breast Screening Aotearoa national services – particularly the additional funding for a new breast screening register that will assist us, and other providers around the country, to ensure more people access screening services and re-screening appointments are systematised.
“We look forward to working closely with Breast Screening Aotearoa, and the newly-appointed Pae Whakatere, as they make and oversee improvements to the national screening regime for our district and others around the country.
To view the report, please visit our Publications and Reports page.