Screening service referrals drop sharply in Scotland

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As a result of the pausing of national cancer screening programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, referrals from breast screening services dropped by 55.8% in Scotland during 1 April to 30 June, according to a quarterly report on cancer waiting times published on 29 September from Public Health Scotland.

In addition, colorectal cancer screening referrals declined by 58.5% and cervical cancer screening referrals dropped by 22.7%, according to the report. Breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening services were paused in March due to COVID-19 and no new invitations for the three screening programs were sent out during the quarter. Breast cancer screening did resume on 3 August.

Of the patients who were referred during the quarter with positive breast cancer screening exams, 91.5% began treatment within 62 days of referral, down from 97.3% in the previous quarter. NHS Scotland has a standard that states that 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer or screened positive through a national screening program should wait a maximum of 62 days from referral to first cancer treatment.

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