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Radiographers call for breast screening to be carried out by men as well as women

11 September 2017

Mammography is only health examination performed exclusively by female practitioners

A motion at this year’s Trades Union Congress (10-13 September, Brighton Centre) calls on the government to allow male radiographers as well as women to carry out NHS breast screening examinations.

Members of the Society of Radiographers, who screen more than two million women a year for early signs of cancer, are asking the TUC to support a campaign to allow male radiographers to conduct examinations.

“There is a national shortage of mammographers and it seems nonsensical for radiographers who are capable of carrying out the examinations being excluded from doing so because of their gender,” Richard Evans, the Society’s chief executive officer said.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK and the earlier it is detected has a significant effect on the individual’s survival and the extent of the treatment required,” he continued.

“If a woman attending a breast screening appointment prefers to have the examination performed by a female mammographer of course they should have that option. But regulations currently specifically exclude male radiographers from carrying out mammograms.”

The Society’s TUC motion notes that obstetric, gynaecological and ultrasound examinations during pregnancy are carried out by male and female healthcare practitioners. It is only breast screening which requires the examining professionals to be female.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. Breast screening (mammography) involves taking x-rays of women’s breasts to detect signs of cancer developing. Mammography examinations can detect very small cancers up to two years before a tumour would grow to a size where it could be felt. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the likely outcome for the patient.
  2. More than two million women a year in the UK have mammograms through the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Cancer is found in about eight out of a thousand women screened. Females who are aged between 50 and 70 and who are registered with a GP are invited for screening every three years. In some parts of England, the screening programme has been inviting women from 47 to 73 years old as part of a trial.
  3. TUC Motion 64: NHS breast screening programme: moving forward. Congress notes that the essential characteristic of the NHS breast screening programme is that it is a single-sex service. Due to the nature of the role, there is a “genuine occupational qualification” for radiographers to be female, as an exception to the Equality Act 2010. According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s statistics for 2013– 14, 20.08 million women over the age of 45 were screened under this programme. There is a national shortage of mammographers and Congress also notes that within the UK this is the only area of health practice where such a genuine occupational qualification applies. No such qualification applies for example in gynaecology and obstetrics or within the foetal anomaly screening programme. Congress believes that this single-sex restriction is not justified and should be brought into line with all other areas of health practice. We continue to support patient choice which would include having a female radiographer if they wish. Congress therefore calls on the TUC to work with the SoR and other likeminded organisations to lobby the NHS England, the Department of Health, the government, devolved administrations, and opposition parties to remove this requirement. The Society of Radiographers
  4. The Society of Radiographers is the trade union and professional body for radiographers and all non-medical members of the workforce in diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy in the UK. It is responsible for their professional, educational, public and workplace interests.
  5. The TUC Congress 2017 takes place from Sunday, 10 September - Wednesday, 13 September at the Brighton Centre. 

For further information please contact Dominic Deeson on 0795 784 5238, email dominic@deeson.co.uk

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