A report from Breakthrough UK has been produced which highlights some of the multiple barriers faced by disabled people when seeking to access cancer and other screening services, such as pregnancy ultrasounds and eye screening for people with diabetes.

Breakthrough UK is a Manchester based disabled people’s organisation. They are led by disabled people and support other disabled people to work and live independently.

Titled “Engaging with Disabled People on Experiences of – and Barriers to – Accessing NHS Screening Programmes”, the report followed a number of interviews, workshops and conversations with disabled people which took place during 2019. They revealed that 60% of disabled people had experienced issues or barriers related to screening, ranging from a lack of information, inadequate training for staff, and a lack of accessible services.

Specific barriers were identified for each type of screening service, along with “enablers” which were adjustments which could be made to make that service more accessible.  The most common barrier was poor accessibility of the venue which was mentioned by 1 in 5 of disabled people. Other barriers included difficulties getting an appointment; transport issues; previous bad experiences; and embarrassment.

Finally, the report ended with nine recommendations for improvements which could be made to make screening services more accessible. These were:

  1. Appropriate and Accessible Information: Providing information and materials in accessible formats, ensuring that frontline staff are trained in these and when they should be provided.
  2. An adequate income: For example reimburse travel costs where this is a barrier to attendance.
  3. Appropriate and accessible health and social care provisions: Offer extra time at appointments where this is an access requirement.
  4. A fully-accessible transport system: Arrange appointments close to the person’s address wherever possible or provide accessible parking.
  5. Full access to the environment: Have a rolling programme of access audits for screening centres.
  6. Adequate provision of technical aids and equipment: Ensure screening centres with a range of access equipment & encourage people to contact screening centres beforehand to talk through their access and support requirements.
  7. Adequate provision of personal assistance: Promote support options to disabled people who do not have anyone to assist them to do the kit.
  8. Availability of independent advocacy and self-advocacy: Welcome advocates and provide space in screening centres for them.
  9. Availability of peer counselling (peer support): Peer support groups should be available and should be informed by a social model of disability perspective.


A copy of the report can be downloaded here.