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Two new BreastScreen Aotearoa Service Providers

Two new BreastScreen Aotearoa Service Providers for Auckland and Northland women

A decision today by the Director-General of Health to establish two new breast screening service providers will mean better access to services for Auckland and Northland women.

The two new providers are Counties-Manukau District Health Board and a partnership between Waitemata and Northland District Health Boards, both of which are well placed to provide breast screening services for women in their regions.

Group Manager of the National Screening Unit (NSU), Karen Mitchell says “The new services which are expected to be up and running by the end of next year, will be a boon for women in the region, particularly those in Northland, the North Shore and South Auckland who currently all travel to the eastern suburb of Remuera for any follow-up assessment.”

“The new providers are expected to increase the number of eligible women participating in the programme and improve the regional coverage rate, which is currently 52% of the eligible population compared with the national average of 62%,” Ms Mitchell says. The programme target is 70%.

“Coverage in the region must be improved in order to meet the programme’s aim of reducing the number of women dying of breast cancer. It has been calculated that at 70 percent coverage, 44 lives could be saved in the region each year, for women aged 45 to 69 years. The current coverage rate of 52 percent has the potential to save 33 lives in the Auckland and North region. Therefore, an increase in programme coverage in the region to 70 percent (the national target) has the potential to save an additional 11 lives per year.

“Dividing the region between more providers is expected to improve coverage rates as strategies will be focused on local populations and maximizing established relationships with primary care and community organizations.”

Ms Mitchell says ”The changes are in line with recommendations from a review of the screening programme by British screening expert Professor Jocelyn Chamberlain two years ago. The announcement of the new providers is timely given the recent extension to the breast screening programme which will effectively double the programme's size in the next few years.”

This new configuration will improve the ability of BreastScreen Aotearoa to implement the extended age range by increasing capacity in the region.

“The two new providers will supplement the current provider BreastScreen Auckland and North (BSAN), which is currently the biggest national provider, with responsibility for more than third of the country’s eligible population.”

There has been considerable work behind the scenes in arranging the two new providers. An expert working group was formed late last year with people representating the NSU, BSAN, the 4 regional DHBs, consumer, primary health, Mäori and Pacific interests. The work of the expert working group was key to the NSU deciding on the configuration of the new providers.

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