ROUTINE breast screening programmes were suspended in March 2020 to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and free up resources for the NHS.
Mobile units were re-established in September 2020 but at a reduced rate, meaning not as many women could be offered an appointment. With a leading UK breast cancer charity estimating that almost 1.5 million women missed their mammograms, compared to pre-pandemic levels, there are concerns about the impact this backlog is having on early diagnosis of the disease.
Women aged between 50 and 70 years who are registered with a GP should be automatically invited for a screening appointment every three years. I have been contacted by a constituent whose appointment was due in September 2022.
But it is unlikely she will receive an appointment date until July 2023 at the earliest because there are still significant delays with the service.
I raised the issue with Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan, Public Health Wales and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. They acknowledged the delays, which are affecting all areas within Wales, and have said they are working on reducing waiting lists.
Breast Test Wales has also said it is not prepared to refer anyone across the border to receive screening from the English programme. Cancer waiting times are at a record high and access to early screening programmes has never been more important.
Women could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer and are being let down by the Welsh Labour Government which is offering no alternatives other than to simply wait.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is redoubling efforts to protect the environment and I welcome the announcement of an additional £100m investment to help protect river water quality.
This extra money will build on the £833m already being invested in the wastewater network through to 2025. I was particularly pleased to hear there are accelerated plans to install phosphate stripping at the wastewater treatment works at Llanfoist on the River Usk, as well as £2m on phosphate removal at Monmouth on the River Wye.
A little anecdote to finish this week’s column. When I turned up at the launch of Benthyg-y-Fenni last month, there were quite a few Labour councillors there as well.
We engaged in the usual leg-pulling jokes, but it says a great deal about the nature of politics in this country – and particularly Monmouthshire – that away from the chambers of debate (and with one or two exceptions!) things are still relatively civilised.