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Public awareness of and responses to media coverage of invitation errors in the Breast Screening Programme in England: a cross-sectional population survey

07 Sep 2019


In May 2018, the British Health Secretary announced the ‘serious failure’ that 450 000 women had missed out on invitations to breast screening in England, leading to extensive media coverage. This study measured public awareness of the story and tested for associated factors (eg, educational level and trust in the National Health Service (NHS)).


A computer-assisted face-to-face survey in June 2018.


Participants completed the survey in their homes.


Males and females aged 16 years or older in England.

Primary and secondary outcome measures

Awareness of aspects of the media coverage and reported statistics. Other data included demographics (eg, ethnicity), awareness of unrelated contemporaneous news stories, trust in participants’ general practitioners (GPs) and the NHS, and (among women) worry about breast cancer and future breast screening intentions.


Descriptive statistics showed that 67% of 1894 participants reported being aware of the media coverage. Regression analyses showed that those who were aware of other news stories, were white British and had a higher level of education or social grade were more likely to be aware. In contrast, only 36% correctly identified at least one of two headline statistics. This study did not find evidence that awareness was negatively associated with trust in participants’ GPs or the NHS, breast cancer worry or future breast cancer screening intentions.


Awareness of the breast screening news story was high but recall of reported statistics was much lower: the public may have retained only the gist of quantitative information. Associations between story awareness and attitudes or behaviour were not apparent.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open