Following the Welsh Government’s announcement of plans to suspend non-urgent outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgical admissions and procedures in order to redirect staff and resources to support the response to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Welsh Government have agreed the recommendations of Public Health Wales to temporarily pause some of the population based screening programmes.
The recommendation is also based on the recent UK Government’s guidance to stop non-essential social contact and travel, guidance for vulnerable groups, and practical constraints relating to staff shortages.
This will affect the following screening programmes: Breast Test Wales, Cervical Screening Wales, Bowel Screening Wales, Diabetic Eye Screening Wales and Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“As we face the challenge of dealing with this pandemic, the well-being of the people of Wales is my top priority. Many people who attend screening programmes are in a higher-risk category for coronavirus and it is essential that we minimise risk to those people at this time.
“This is a temporary suspension and we will resume these programmes at the earliest opportunity when it is safe to do so. In the meantime I would urge anyone who may have symptoms of some of the conditions that we screen for, to contact their GP.”
Dr Sharon Hillier, Director of Screening Division, Public Health Wales said:
“We are in unprecedented times and this has been a difficult recommendation for us to make. However pausing some of the screening programmes in Wales will avoid the need for participants to come into contact with others at our screening venues and we recognise that we invite some participants who are in the identified vulnerable groups.
“All best efforts will be made to contact participants who have received a timed appointment from us to let them know that the clinic has been cancelled.
“We will try our very best to ensure that participants who have recently been screened will receive results of their screening and be referred or assessed if required. We plan to continue to offer screening to men who are under surveillance as part of our Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme. This will be dependent on our staffing levels and those of our colleagues in the health boards.
“We plan to continue with the Antenatal Screening Wales, Newborn Bloodspot Screening and Newborn Hearing Screening programmes, as these all have short window of intervention and can prevent impactful complications for newborns and are part of routine antental and post natal care. This will be dependent on our staffing levels and those of our colleagues in the health boards.
“We will formally review the situation in eight weeks’ time and undertake a further risk assessment. The programmes will make plans to re-start all of the programme when the acute Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) response is over and we are able to do so.
“We would like to thank you for your understanding and patience at this difficult time.”
In the meantime anyone who is worried that they may have relevant symptoms of any of the conditions that we screen for should not wait to be screened and should contact their health care provider in the usual way. Contact details of the programmes will be on your letter or on the programme website.