There is international interest in risk-stratification of breast screening programmes to allow women at higher risk to benefit from more frequent screening and chemoprevention. Risk-stratification also identifies women at low-risk who could be screened less frequently, as the harms of breast screening may outweigh benefits for this group. The present research aimed to elicit the views of national healthcare policy decision-makers regarding implementation of less frequent screening intervals for women at low-risk.
Seventeen professionals were purposively recruited to ensure relevant professional group representation directly or indirectly associated with the UK National Screening Committee and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidelines. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.
Three themes are reported: (1) producing the evidence defining low-risk, describing requirements preceding implementation; (2) the impact of risk stratification on women is complicated, focusing on gaining acceptability from women; and (3) practically implementing a low-risk pathway, where feasibility questions are highlighted.
Overall, national healthcare policy decision-makers appear to believe that risk-stratified breast screening is acceptable, in principle. It will however be essential to address key obstacles prior to implementation in national programmes.