COMMENT: West London breast screening service is in need of outside intervention

The west London breast screening service has already been suspended because it was not operating to acceptable standards. Hammersmith Hospitals trust, which runs the service, did its best to ensure the suspension of the service was kept under wraps, despite not being able to screen women for months.

The situation has highlighted serious flaws in the whole breast screening service, for neither regional office nor the national programme has been able to step in to ensure that women in west London are getting the service to which they are entitled.

The trust says it has been unable to meet national protocols, yet has been allowed to continue to run the service. The investigation by the Commission for Health Improvement will not report until spring. But unless there is outside intervention in the service, which has been plagued with problems, there is a risk that the reputation of the whole national breast screening programme will be irreparably damaged.