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Programme Performance and Standards

The VHR Surveillance Screening Programme in Northern Ireland closely follows protocols and standards published by the NHS in England.

On 8th September 2020, Public Health England issued revised guidance, titled “Protocols for surveillance of women at very high risk of developing breast cancer”. This guidance clarified:

  • How very high risk is defined in relation to the programme and how that relates to the NICE definitions (the programme is now referred to as Very High Risk rather than Higher Risk).
  • What defines risk equivalent to BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers.
  • Which women aged 25 to 29 should be included in the very high risk screening programme.
  • Who is entitled to a baseline MRI scan.
  • Who is entitled to very high risk surveillance screening following radiotherapy to sites involving breast tissue (formerly referred to as ‘supra-diaphragmatic radiotherapy’).
  • When the very high risk surveillance screening programme ends (previously there was no upper age limit, but this is now set at 71).


Consolidated Standards

From 1 April 2021 NHS Breast Screening Programme screening standards will apply to the VHR Screening Programme. These standards provide a defined set of measures that providers have to meet to ensure local programmes are safe and effective. For further information see and the Exception Reporting Protocol.


Statistical Publications

A section on VHR screening appears in the Breast Screening Programme Annual Report.

The 2017/2018 Annual Report – can be found by clicking  Here


Regional Satisfaction Surveys

A satisfaction survey is periodically carried out by the VHR Screening Unit to assess client satisfaction with the service and how it may be improved.

Satisfaction survey 2018.