Dumbarton pensioner denied breast screening appointment

This discriminatory, ageist attitude is appalling

77-year-old complained to MSP Jackie Baillie after being told she couldn’t have a mammogram due to her age

By Lucy Ashton

A Dumbarton pensioner has bitterly criticised the SNP  government for their “ageist attitude” after she was denied a breast screening appointment.

The 77-year-old contacted MSP Jackie Baillie after she was told she couldn’t have a mammogram due to her age – despite the government announcing that the screening programme for women aged over 70 would be re-starting in autumn.

She told a reporter: “I am 77 and have been chasing up an appointment which I believed I should be entitled to, but I am now told that I am no longer eligible for a mammogram.

“The cut-off age is now 75. This has come completely out of the blue. This discriminatory and ageist attitude is appalling.”

Jackie Baillie, who is Scottish Labour’s health and social care spokesperson, quizzed Nicola Sturgeon directly about the matter during First Ministers’ Questions on Thursday.

She said afterwards: “This is an unfair and discriminatory policy to deny women over the age of 75 breast cancer screening.

“I have been in correspondence with countless women over the last two years due to genuine concerns, as a result, of the pausing of the screening programme. Now it appears that promises have been made to resume the programme to the level they were at the start of 2020, which are not being kept.

“No woman should feel abandoned by the health service because of her age.

“In her response, the First Minister said that there should be a focus on returning services to the level they were at before the pandemic, which would include all women over 70 being given the opportunity to request screening every three years.

“I look forward to confirmation that this will be the case as it is imperative that the NHS is accessible to all, free at the point of need.”

FM Nicola Sturgeon said: “In terms of the restoration of breast screening for the ages in which breast screening is advised, that has already, of course, happened.

“In terms of the older age groups, which are on a self-referral basis, that has been done in a fazed way, and I will come back to Jackie Baillie on that, via the health secretary.

“These decisions were not taken lightly (during the pandemic). The pausing of the screening process, especially the breast screening programme, was one that was agonised over by the then medical officer. It is important that we get that right and that we prioritise it for those who have been recommended. Which, of course, is what has been done.

“Our priority is to get all the health services back functioning as they were before the pandemic.”

“In August, the option to self-refer recommenced but in a careful, phased way to ensure the impact on appointment wait times can be closely monitored. Women aged 71-74, and those over 75 with a history of breast cancer can now self-refer if it has been three years since their last appointment. We cannot yet say when self-referrals for those over 75 will start; however, the situation is being regularly reviewed and steps continue to be taken to maximise capacity within the programme.

“We stress that women of any age should make an appointment with their GP Practice if they notice any of the signs or symptoms of breast cancer. More information on these can be found on NHS inform.”

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