NEWS

A confidential Department of Health report was this week still being withheld from an investigation into one of the largest breastscreening services in the country, despite junior health minister Lord Hunt telling an NHS cancerscreening programme launch last week 'of the drive for openness and transparency'.

The Commission for Health Improvement, which is conducting an investigation into the west London breast-screening service run by Hammersmith Hospitals trust, requested the DoH report four weeks ago.

Even though the report by University of Wales College of Medicine vice-chancellor Professor Ian Cameron, would remain confidential if passed to CHI, ministers were still deciding whether to release it as HSJ went to press.

The comments from Lord Hunt came at the launch of public information leaflets for all women on the 'benefits and limitations' of breast and cervical screening, together with the annual review of the NHS breast-screening service.

In his foreword to the review, Lord Hunt says it has been 'a successful year for the breastscreening programme' and that although it 'remains one of the best in the world, those involved are certainly not complacent'.

The CHI investigation, which is not likely to report until the spring, is looking at why the screening service had been performing so poorly. The service was finally suspended in June after it failed to conform to national reporting protocols.

NHS cancer screening programmes national co-ordinator Julietta Patnick told HSJ she did not expect it to be fully operational for a few more months, as staff are still being recruited and there would need to be a lead-in period. But trust chief executive Derek Smith said he hoped part of the service would be running before Christmas.