WOMEN have been urged to book a breast screening appointment as part of a new move to ease a backlog which resulted in thousands missing out on potentially lifesaving check-ups as a result of the pandemic.

Barnsley Hospital staff will be on hand at pop-up stalls in the town centre next Friday, where advice and information will be available to eligible women aged between 50 and 71.

The signposting event, which will be held near the NHS’s new diagnostics hub in the Glass Works, will take place between 9am and 3pm.

It comes after the Chronicle revealed earlier this year that 13,000 Barnsley women within the age bracket were not up to date with their three-yearly cancer checks due to the knock-on impact of Covid-19.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “The pandemic inevitably had an impact on some routine services and we know that fewer people came forward for cancer checks.

“The NHS is now inviting more people than ever to be screened, while investing a further £70m to support screening services, which we know saves thousands of lives.

“It remains vital that women come forward when they receive their invitation to do so.”

The screening programme sees women invited every three years to undergo a mammogram designed to detect cancers that are too small to see or feel.

Data shows that 55 per cent of eligible women in Barnsley were up to date with their screenings at the end of March, meaning roughly 13,045 were not.

Screenings were seriously impacted by pandemic-related disruption and were paused for several months from March 2020 to protect patients and staff from the virus, before resuming that summer.

Self-isolation and shielding were also believed to have had an impact on attendances throughout the pandemic.

Barnsley’s new diagnostics centre has been in use since mid-April this year, with phlebotomy, ultrasound services, breast screening and bone density scanning available.

A total of 10,615 tests, checks and scans have been delivered at the site, as of August 14, according to Department of Health and Social Care figures.

The facility - which cost just under £3m - was the first of its kind in the country to be sited in a town centre retail and leisure facility and healthcare leaders have called for more women to take advantage of its arrival.

Jodie Moffat, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said a lack of NHS capacity could impact upon its ability to deal with the backlog of women awaiting invitations, and called for the funding of extra staff.

She added: “Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

“During the first year of the pandemic we saw a drop off in the number of women starting treatment for breast cancer in England, which we thought was partly linked to delays in breast cancer screening.”