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NGH spends £517,000 on improving breast screening service

The breast-screening service at Northampton General Hospital has had a £517,000 upgrade to meet the needs of a growing local population.

The news follows an announcement last month of a £250,000 upgrade of neighbouring Kettering General Hospital’s facilities as part of a nationally funded improvements to screening following the pandemic. NGH funded its own improvements.

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Both hospitals now have substantially upgraded equipment following the major investments and are urging local people to attend their screening appointments.

The NGH Breast Screening team with one of the new mobile units.The NGH Breast Screening team with one of the new mobile units.
The NGH Breast Screening team with one of the new mobile units.

Northampton General Hospital’s Breast Screening Lead, Louise Ward, said: “We now have some of the most up-to-date equipment available for our screening unit.

“It includes two of the latest ultrasound machines - which produce more highly detailed images – and a new x-ray specimen cabinet which helps us to improve the breast biopsy diagnostic process. “

In addition to the new machines, Northampton General Hospital’s two mobile breast screening units – which tour the south and west of the county in a three-year-cycle – have been replaced.

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Louise said: “The mobile screening units are much-improved and offer a better experience to local people in a calm and comfortable environment. Our staff also have benefitted with an improved rest area.

Radiographer, Chiara Morgantini, and Superintendent Radiographer in the new unit.Radiographer, Chiara Morgantini, and Superintendent Radiographer in the new unit.
Radiographer, Chiara Morgantini, and Superintendent Radiographer in the new unit.

“Overall this major investment in our screening service will help us to continue to deliver the national screening programme now and in the future.”

Both Northampton and Kettering general hospitals are looking to further improve uptake rates for breast screening after these rates dipped during the Covid-19 pandemic

Breast screening is offered to all women aged 50-until their 71st birthday who are invited in turn through the GP practices in the county at a frequency of one every three years.

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Women who have been assessed by the genetics service to be at Very High Risk of Breast Cancer are seen more frequently, and those aged over 71 can continue to self-refer for screening every three years.

Prior to the pandemic NGH achieved an uptake of 76.7% but this has fallen to 68.4% of eligible women taking up their invitation of having a breast screening mammogram.

Prior to the pandemic at KGH the average uptake across all of our GP practices uptake was 73.8% but that is currently at 65.4% across our screening population. Both units want to achieve higher rates to help diagnose and treat cancers at an earlier stage.

Kettering General Hospital’s Breast Screening Lead, Deborah Black, said: “Breast screening allows for early detection of any breast changes including cancer, and provides reassurance where nothing abnormal has been identified.

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“We would urge all women to respond to their invitation letter and book a screening mammogram.”

The system for appointments differs slightly at KGH and NGH. At NGH women are invited to book their appointment at a time and location that works for the individual when it is their GP practice to be screened.

At KGH the unit books appointments for all women – however women can easily change their appointments if it is not convenient.

Both KGH and NGH have dedicated teams of about 30 staff made up of radiographers, consultants, assistant practitioners, radiographic assistants and a programme co-ordinating team with admin and clerical support.