Coronavirus: Cancer screening programmes suspended

A number of elective surgeries - including knee and hip replacements - have also been cancelled.

Coronavirus: Cancer screening programmes suspended Getty Images
Coronavirus: Several NHS screening programmes have been suspended.

Several NHS screening programmes have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as screenings for breast, cervical and bowel cancer, a number of elective surgeries – such as knee and hip replacements – have also been cancelled to create more capacity within Scotland’s hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move at the Scottish Parliament on Monday during a briefing on the outbreak.

She said the “difficult” decision “was not taken lightly” and was based on recommendations from the chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood and NHS National Services Scotland.

The First Minister said the move would “maximise the ability of the NHS to cope in the coming weeks”.

She added: “It’s not an easy decision, I want to repeat that, but the balance of risk supports the approach that we are taking.”

Screening for pregnant women and for newborn babies will continue as normal.

Meanwhile, those that detect any symptoms of the conditions that are normally screened for are being urged to contact their GP immediately.

The First Minister stated: “We will restart the screening programmes that we have paused as soon as we can.

“This is a temporary suspension and it will be reviewed after 12 weeks or earlier if evidence suggests that restarting the programme is feasible.

“However at this moment, pausing these programmes is an important way of allowing the NHS to deal effectively with the impact of Covid-19.”

Six further people in Scotland diagnosed with coronavirus have died, taking the total to 47.

The number of confirmed positive cases stands at 1563 – up 179 from Sunday.

To provide extra capacity during the Covid-19 crisis, the SEC Centre in Glasgow will be transformed into a temporary hospital.

It is expected to become operational within the next two weeks and will initially provide the NHS with 300 beds, but has the capacity for more than 1000 patients.

Responding the announcement Tom Berry, Head of Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said: “The difficult decision to suspend breast screening in Scotland in light of the coronavirus outbreak may cause significant concern for many women and we now need to do all we can to support them through the coming months. This is not a decision that will have been taken lightly, but it is a necessary step in both limiting the risk of infection for women of screening age and helping free up emergency resource for the NHS to respond to the crisis.

“Until this vital service is able to resume, we would encourage women not to be alarmed but to check their breasts regularly, and to report any unusual changes to their GP. Anyone concerned about not being able to attend breast screening can call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000. Our expert nurses are always just at the end of the telephone line.”