Welsh screening unit offers improved access for disabled women (04/01/10)
Breast Test Wales has today launched a new mobile breast screening unit which offers wheelchair access.
At present the unit will only operate in parts of South East Wales, but Breast Test Wales is planning to replace every Breast Test Wales mobile unit over the next few years, bringing equality of service to every woman across Wales.
The new Breast Test Wales unit is the first of its type in the UK. It aims to encourage women with a physical disability to attend for their free breast screening appointments.
The launch comes following the news that Breast Test Wales has the highest detection rate in the UK.
The unit cost £140,000, and is the start of a process which will see the replacement of all ten Breast Test Wales mobile units over the next few years.
Statistics show that, although around 9,000 women in Wales are registered as wheelchair users in the screening age group of 50-70, only around 1,500 currently attend for the potentially life-saving test.
Dr Rose Fox, deputy director of Screening Services Wales explained: “Until now, many of the women who were unable to climb the steps of our mobile units have had to travel long distances for screening. We know that many haven’t felt able to take advantage of the breast screening programme. So I am delighted that we will now be able to offer screening to more women in Wales.”
In addition to the lift, the new unit, which is currently sited in Bridgend, has several features to make the service easier for disabled users. These include a wider corridor down the centre of the unit, a larger entrance with a lowered reception desk, and a wider door into the x-ray room. A larger x-ray room allows more space for a wheelchair, and two of the changing cubicles can convert into one large one, to accommodate wheelchairs. A call button at street level will also enable users to register on arrival. The unit can accommodate wheelchairs up to 31” wide.
“We will be keen to evaluate the experience of women and staff using the unit, to ensure that the design is as user-friendly as it can be,” commented Dr Fox.
The mobile was officially launched by Sally Mitchell, Health and Well Being presenter for Able Radio, an internet-based radio station for people with a disability, and Professor Mansel Aylward, Chair of Public Health Wales which runs Breast Test Wales.
Speaking at the launch, Sally Mitchell said: “We at Able Radio are passionate about breaking down any barriers that prevent people with disabilities from taking part in normal, everyday life. That is why I am so excited about this new breast screening unit which allows those of us with mobility problems easier access to the screening programme.”
Ms Mitchell, a former nurse until an accident left her wheel-chair bound 10 years ago added: “Early detection and treatment are crucial to a good outcome, and I am delighted that those of us with mobility challenges can now be included in this valuable programme.”