Essex: Breast screening at hospital now digital

THE breast screening service at an Essex hospital has gone fully digital after a �162,000 investment.

The bulk of the cash has been spent on a second digital mammography machine with the remainder on IT and building works to accommodate it at Essex County Hospital.

The new equipment has replaced two analogue machines, dating back to 1999 and 2001.

It means that film is no longer needed and the images can be viewed immediately on computer screens and sent to other healthcare professionals at the push of a button.

Monica Dale, programme manager of Chelmsford and Colchester Breast Imaging Services, said: “Digital mammography is a more efficient system than the traditional film X-ray and allows us to use our time more effectively in the department.

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“Women will notice very little difference in the examination, but, for staff, each examination not only takes less time but involves less physical effort too.

“We have totally eliminated our expenditure on film and chemistry.”

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The first digital machine at Essex County Hospital went into service two years ago and both machines are used to take images of women referred into the breast unit by GPs and also of women who need second-stage screening as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Previously, a large number of women were invited to Essex County Hospital for routine three-yearly mammograms because there was insufficient screening capacity in mobile units in the community.

However the Chelmsford and Colchester NHS Breast Screening Service took delivery of three new digital mobile screening units, costing �814,000, in the summer meaning only two sessions of routine screening a week now take place at the hospital.

The time that has been freed up will be used to run additional clinics for women referred by their GPs and for extra screening assessment clinics.

The building work at Essex County Hospital for the new equipment involved converting the two rooms containing the analogue machines into a single room which has created a bigger and brighter environment for staff and patients.

It also included new lighting, flooring and redecoration and upgrading power supplies.

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