Proposals to extend regular breast screening to 70-year-olds could prove a logistical nightmare, experts have warned.

Linda Rockall, leading Sussex consultant radiologist, said a shortage of expert staff and funding would make the proposals impossible to achieve in some parts of Sussex.

The Government is spending an extra £8 million to extend the existing breast screening programme to 70-year olds - currently only women between 50 and 64 are covered.

The extension is expected to come into force next year.

The Government's decision is largely due to a successful three year pilot programme run in the East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority area.

The scheme, operated by staff at Brighton Health Care NHS Trust, included women up to the age of 69 in regular screenings and showed a marked improvement in early detection rates across the county.

The pilot programme ended last year but the authority continued funding the scheme.

Jane McNevin, trust care centre manager for breast care, said: "We realised that it was likely the government was going to increase the limit so we decided to continue with the programme.

"We are therefore only going to be increasing our age limit by one year to 70 so it should not cause too many problems for us."

But in West Sussex the new scheme will mean an increase in workload for the county of about 40 per cent.

At the moment, more than 20,000 women aged between 50 and 64 are routinely screened every year in West Sussex.

Mrs Rockall, based at Worthing Hospital, is the only specialist consultant working in West Sussex who is able to check and screen the thousands of mammograms taken every year.

She said: "We are fully stretched at the moment and as things stand, to take on such an extra workload would be impossible.

"The lack of specially trained staff being recruited is a national problem and is something that has to be addressed first.

"It is a good idea and with the right funding and the right amount of staff on board it would be extremely effective as routine breast screenings lead to many more early diagnoses."

West Sussex Health Authority has welcomed the government's proposals but says a number of factors need to be taken into account first, including the county's higher than average number of older residents.

Morag Armer, authority public health expert, said: "We hope when it comes to giving out extra funding for this scheme the fact that this area has a large number of elderly people living here is taken into consideration."