Breast cancer is an issue that Mike has been intimately involved in for much of his time in public life, first as leader of Barnet Council and then as Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green.
Indeed, Mike was concerned to discover in 2010 that the local take up rate for breast cancer screening was well below national targets as a result of an ineffective callup process, outdated analogue machinery, and breast screening films being sometimes lost, mislabelled, or misread.
This, along with his observation that the permanent screening centre at Edgware General Hospital was more welcoming than the mobile unit that served Finchley Memorial Hospital, led to a campaign for a permanent centre at Finchley Memorial.
Following his long-running campaign for its installation, Mike was present to witness the opening of a permanent digital breast screening unit at Finchley Memorial (pictured), which has served his constituents since 2018.
Over the past five years, the unit has served approximately 32,000 people from the local area, a fantastic achievement for an undeniably positive addition to Finchley.
The Covid-19 pandemic inevitably took a toll on breast cancer screening across the country. The Government has set national targets for breast screening take up, with 70% of eligible women between 51-70 being screened at least once in the previous 36 months set as an “acceptable” level, and 80% of eligible women set as an “achievable” level.
In 2019, across England, coverage was 74.6%. Coverage was at 65.3% in 2022. In the Barnet local authority area, coverage was 61.9% in 2022, compared with 68.9% in 2019. It should be noted, however, that Barnet is performing well above the London average, which was 55.5% in 2022, compared with 67.4% in 2019.
Regardless, it is imperative that these numbers improve across the board, which is why breast screening remains a key public health priority both for Mike personally and the Government he is a part of.
In the 2021 Spending Review, the Government allocated £2.3 billion to improve diagnostic capacity over the following three years, supported by the Government’s Major Conditions Strategy, a new vision outlining how the UK will lead the world in cancer care.
In addition, there are a number of other steps being taken to improve screening rates, including the use of text message alerts to remind women of upcoming appointments, and local and national media campaigns to raise awareness of the breast screening programme. Capacity is being increased for breast screening through the delivery of 29 new breast cancer screening units, 58 remote access upgrades and nearly 70 life-saving service upgrades.
Mike will continue to campaign to improve breast screening uptake, and to encourage all who are eligible to attend a screening as soon as they can.