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Working together to improve uptake of breast screening across Lancashire and South Cumbria

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Raising awareness of breast screening through a very bright flower display and breast screening information and posters.
Flower power: raising awareness of breast screening through flower show display

Awareness-raising initiatives have helped drive an increase in breast screening uptake in Lancashire and South Cumbria. Screening is always a choice but by raising awareness we can help women to understand the benefits of screening and reduce the barriers to them accepting a screening offer.

Three years ago, NHS England (Lancashire and South Cumbria) commissioned a piece of work with the 3 breast screening services in the area.

This work has led to an increase in uptake of between 3% and 13% in the GP practices involved. One practice saw attendance of people invited for the first time increase from 18% in 2016 to 45% in 2019.

We wanted to share with you how we achieved this, as we mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019 this October.


The screening services, supported by the local commissioning team and screening and immunisation team, have all worked hard to raise awareness of breast screening among local GP practices and community groups.

Together we produced a communications toolkit, “#bescreened”, to promote screening which included:

  • posters
  • banners
  • wallet cards
  • postcards for feedback
  • an animated video for playing on practice TV screens and other locations

These resources are available for other services interested in running similar campaigns. They are branded with the service's name, so you may wish to pay for them to be branded for your own service. Contact the PHE screening helpdesk for details on how to contact the Lancashire and South Cumbria team.

We focused on women who do not regularly attend services. We explored the reasons for non-attendance and used this information to improve the service. We worked with local communities to address some of the common worries and misunderstandings women may have about breast screening.

Each screening unit supports practices throughout the screening process, from the invitation stage and organising the screening clinics to the issuing of screening results.

We support practices to contact women who have not responded to their invitations and aim to find out if there is anything which could help them to attend if they wish to do so. We use this opportunity to explain the importance of attending screening.

Some of the things we did to promote screening included:

  • producing newsletters for practices to highlight ongoing work, upcoming screening clinics and to share good practice and ideas
  • sharing feedback with practices to help improve the screening service in future
  • displaying posters and leaflets in local businesses such as hairdressers and clothing store changing rooms
  • holding stands in supermarkets and shopping centres
  • presenting to women’s and men’s groups such as the Women’s Institute and local black and minority ethnic (BME) women's groups
  • holding drop-in sessions with larger employers and gaining support for staff to have time off to attend screening
  • holding focus groups with some lower uptake groups to provide evidence to inform change in approaches to screening
  • introducing ‘bosom buddy’ and ‘breast friends’ schemes to enable women to arrange to have appointments together with a friend and share positive experiences

A hands-on approach to raising awareness

We decided to get outside to raise awareness in local communities in fun ways.

We created a garden display at a local flower show. The garden won the silver award in its category and featured in 6 local newspapers as well as online.

Some staff and members of the public abseiled down the tower in Williamson Park in Lancaster decked out in bright pink – Blackpool tower may be next!

A close-up picture of volunteers abseiling down the tower in Williamson Park, and a full-view image of the tower
Volunteers braved the heights of the Williamson Park tower to highlight the importance of breast screening

We also decorated one of the local town centre Christmas trees in pink.

Our next steps

The project will continue due to the great increase in screening uptake. The work with practice staff and the novel ways of raising awareness with local communities has really promoted screening, including with women who may not generally access it.

The work that has been done collaboratively between the breast screening programmes, NHS England commissioning team and the Screening and Immunisation team is proof that working together and sharing ideas brings results.

PHE Screening blog

PHE Screening blogs provide up to date news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new blog articles. If you have any questions about this blog article, or about population screening in England, please contact the PHE screening helpdesk.

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