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29.10.19

NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation project boosts cancer screening rates

Following an initial pilot using Facebook to encourage breast cancer screening attendance, after hundreds of practice nurses across the country have been taught how social media can improve health, the North Midlands Breast Screening Service saw an increased average of 12.9 per cent between three-year screening cycles from 2014 to 2018.

The service has also moved up on the league table for uptakes levels, going from 58th to 11th in the country between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Nationally, uptakes of invitations for breast screening are in decline.

The same methods are now being harnessed elsewhere in the country to inspire patients to go for other cancer screening tests.  

The social media skills being taught were first used by the North Midlands Breast Screening Service in Stroke-on-Trent in a pathfinder project run by charity Good Things Foundation as part of the work the NHS is doing on digital inclusion.

A Facebook page was created to give out information and lessen anxiety about breast examinations. The team also posted information about screening on community groups and the Facebook Messenger service allowed women to effortlessly make appointments and ask questions about the screening procedure.

The project continues to develop, with the latest innovation a link-up with Lancaster University to develop an Al chatbot which could assist staff in answering questions sent in via Messenger.

Nicola Gill, Director of the WDP Programme said: “NHS Digital is incredibly proud to have been able to support this innovative model that is now being adopted and used by NHS organization across the country.

Going to where people go every day, in this case a Facebook community group, allow us to connect and engage with people in a way that’s familiar and convenient for them. Pioneering models of health prevention and management like this are making a real difference in improving health outcomes excluded communities.”

 

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