Over the next two years we hope to see over 50 qualified apprentices complete the new Level 4 Mammography Associate apprenticeship and enter the breast imaging workforce. Lyndsay Kinnear, Chair of the Mammography Trailblazer Group, looks at how a collaborative approach has created and delivered cost-effective, standardised training in mammography for this group of staff in less than two years.
Routine breast screening is a key part of early cancer detection, but shortages across the breast imaging workforce have had an impact on providing timely and efficient screening services to women.
Back in 2017, the mammography trailblazer group identified the need to develop an apprenticeship to meet the specific needs of the NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHS BSP). We brought together mammography professionals from NHS trusts across the country, academic institutions and the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) to develop the Mammography Associate Level 4 apprenticeship standard.
The trailblazer group also benefited from the support and advice of Public Health England, Health Education England (HEE) and the National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA).
The next step was to gain Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) approval and then consider the logistics of actually delivering the training. Many NHS trusts are ’employer providers’, which means they can provide apprenticeships for their own staff, but not offer them externally.
Our solution was to create a series of partnerships between NHS BSP national training units and apprenticeship main providers:
- St George’s National Breast Education Centre, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Trust, London and South Thames College
- InHealth Jarvis Breast Screening Centre, Guilford and Nescot College
- Nightingale Centre, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and HEE
- Nottingham Breast Institute, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and HEE
The trainees also needed to have their work validated by an end-point assessor, which is independent of the training providers, and independent assessment organisation Pearson was appointed to carry out this role.
The first cohort of apprentices began their training in January 2019 and will be qualified to undertake routine two-view mammography later this year. Their work will be supervised by a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered radiographer.
So, from a standing start in January 2017, we are really proud to have developed a much-needed qualification that will make a real difference to breast cancer detection and treatment.
As well as boosting the breast imaging workforce, the new apprenticeship also offers trainees a recognised apprenticeship qualification which could open up opportunities for further career development in the future.
I am very proud of the innovative thinking and collaborative working by the trailblazer group.
To find out more about the Level 4 Mammography Associate apprenticeship please visit the NBIA website: https://nationalbreastimagingacademy.org/radiography/mammography-associate-apprenticeship/