Tuesday, 28 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
273. Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she plans to implement a nationwide breast screening service for all women of all ages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22811/05]
Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): The national breast screening programme commenced in 2000 and covers the eastern, midland, north-eastern and parts of the south-eastern regions of the country. Screening is being offered free of charge, every two years to approximately 160,000 women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years of age. The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the roll out of breast screening to a further 130,000 women in the same age group in the remaining regions of the country.
New facilities for the national expansion of BreastCheck are included in the health capital investment framework 2005-09. My Department recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to work up detailed plans for the design and construction of the clinical unit at University College Hospital, Galway. The selection process for the design team is well advanced. BreastCheck anticipates that the shortlisting, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005. Discussions on staffing requirements are currently taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national roll-out will be met.
Following the national roll out and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit. There is no evidence of the value of population based breast screening programmes for women under 50 years of age and there are no plans to extend the programme to this age group.
This position is consistent with the recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocates the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for health care resources. The proposals do not provide specific recommendations for screening for breast disease for those under 50 years of age.
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