Travel cost issues after removal of mobile breast screening units from disadvantaged areas of Glasgow

Mobile Breast Screening Unit via NHS Grampian

Patients living in Glasgow’s most deprived areas will have to pay to travel to the city center for life-saving mammograms.

Mobile breast screening units have been removed from supermarket sites in Easterhouse, Shettleston and Parkhead after NHS bosses made the decision to move them to more ‘rural’ areas.

The Glasgow Times understands the mobile fleet has now been sent to sites in Killin, East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Greenock and Port Glasgow to help reduce waiting times.

However, an outraged patient whose identity we are protecting says she simply cannot afford the extra expense of traveling to the heart of Glasgow.

She added: “The purpose of the mobile units is to make it easier for women to be tested without having to travel outside their area. To have the burden of extra travel costs when people are already struggling with the cost of living crisis seems very unfair.

“Most of these units were based in the more deprived areas of the city and people are now expected to shell out for a bus or train fair in these times of austerity. I think it is outrageous that we were landed with this extra cost what if you just can’t afford it or can’t travel due to disability?

“I understand that women in more rural areas also need access to breast cancer screening, but certainly a unit could still be left to travel to outlying areas of Glasgow. It really adds more financial pressure on people at the worst possible time.

The Glasgow Times has seen a letter from NHS bosses outlining their reasoning behind the decision to move the mobile units.

He says: “The breast cancer screening service was interrupted for 20 weeks at the height of the pandemic. At that point, breast cancer screening resumed, and to ensure clients faced fair expectations, the department’s decision was to base mobile units further away and offer clients the most close to the static location of Nelson Mandela Place in Glasgow city centre, the opportunity to attend.

“The capacity has been increased in the static center to accommodate additional customers in record time. Unfortunately for some clients, this has resulted in being offered a breast screening appointment at Nelson Mandela Place, which is easily accessible by many modes of public transport, rather than an appointment in a mobile screening unit as would have been proposed previously.

John Mason, MSP for Shettleston, says while the NHS is facing huge backlogs, more should be done for those who cannot travel for treatment or potentially life-saving appointments.

He told the Glasgow Times: ‘The NHS is currently under pressure so I understand they cannot provide the same services we had before Covid.

“For most people, getting to the city center shouldn’t be a problem, but perhaps special arrangements need to be made for those who can’t make the journey without difficulty.”

It is understood that the service change is not permanent and the mobile fleet could return to Glasgow next spring.

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde added: “Unfortunately the pandemic has impacted the delivery of the breast screening service for approximately 20 weeks, resulting in an increase in the number of clients waiting for their three-year exam.

“As the service recovers, to ensure all patients have equal access to testing, the decision has been made to move some mobile units further afield to assist clients furthest away.

“This decision was made solely to reduce wait times for all patients. In the meantime, capacity has been increased at our static center in Glasgow to accommodate additional clients, but we apologize for any inconvenience caused to patients who may have to travel extra to make their appointment.

“Customers should be assured that this change in service model is temporary – current projections estimate that more normal use of the mobile fleet could be possible from the spring of next year.”