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Breastscreen policy fails younger women

Dr Jackie Blue MP National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

4 September 2006

Breastscreen policy fails younger women

National Party Associate Health spokeswoman Jackie Blue says extending the age for mammographic screening downwards, to include women 45 to 49 years old, has failed to deliver.

"The critical lack of frontline breast screening staff meant this Government policy would always struggle from the outset."

Dr Blue is commenting on a response to a parliamentary written question about coverage rates for women screened in the 45 to 49 and 64 to 69 age groups.

"The internationally accepted target is to screen 70% of eligible women. But in the 22 months since the age extension took effect in July 2004, 56% of women aged 64-69 were screened."

Dr Blue says this is a reasonable result and appears to be heading in the right direction.

"However, only 19% of women in the 45 to 49 age bracket were screened - a truly awful result.

"When Annette King announced the extension she would have known that the fragile screening workforce was going to struggle with the increased demand.

"So, the obvious conclusion from these figures is that in order to deal with the problems, Annette King made sure women in the younger age group were given the lowest priority.

"On one hand Labour says it needs to cull hospital waiting lists because it is unethical to give patients an unrealistic expectation that they will be treated. Yet Labour continues to promote the false perception that breast screening is widely available to a group of women, when it isn't.

"Labour has promised these younger women that they will be given a mammogram in a timely way so their cancer can be found and treated. They have every right to feel betrayed and let down," says Dr Blue.

ENDS

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