Impact of COVID-19 on the practice of breast pathologists: a survey of breast pathologists in the UK and Ireland

UK National Coordinating Group for Breast Pathology and the Association of Breast Pathology, Mirna Elghobashy, Lutful Wahab, Anu Gunavardhan, Emma O'Sullivan, Elena Provenzano, Rahul Deb, Susan Pritchard, Silvana Di Palma, Ian O Ellis, Clinton Boyd, Sarah E Pinder, Abeer M Shaaban

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AIMS: There is little information on the impact of COVID-19 on breast pathologists. This survey assessed the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK and Ireland-based breast pathologists to optimise working environments and ensure preparedness for potential future pandemics.

METHODS: A 35-question survey during the first wave of COVID-19 infections in the UK including questions on workload, working practices, professional development, training, health and safety and well-being was distributed to consultant breast pathologists and responses collected anonymously.

RESULTS: There were 135 responses from breast pathologists based in the UK and Ireland. Most participants (75.6%) stated that their workload had decreased and their productivity dropped. 86/135 (63.7%) were given the option of working from home and 36% of those who did reported improved efficiency. Multidisciplinary team meetings largely moved to virtual platforms (77.8%) with fewer members present (41.5%). Online education, including webinars and courses, was utilised by 92.6%. 16.3% of pathologists reported shortages of masks, visors or gowns as the the most common health and safety concern. COVID-19 had a significant negative impact on the physical and mental health of 33.3% of respondents. A small number of pathologists (10.4%) were redeployed and/or retrained.

CONCLUSION: The UK and Ireland breast pathologists adapted to the rapid change and maintained service delivery despite the significant impact of the pandemic on their working practices and mental health. It is important to apply flexible working patterns and environments that improve productivity and well-being. The changes suggested should be considered for long-term shaping of breast pathology services.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Pathology
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


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