QIPP, Efficiency & Savings

16.10.19

Offer NHS cancer screenings during lunch breaks to halt falling attendances, report recommends

Up to 10,000 lives a year could be saved if NHS screening programmes were offered in a wider variety of locations and times, according to recent findings by Prof Sir Mike Richards.

Sir Richards, a former national cancer director and chief inspector of hospitals, has recommended offering cancer screenings during lunch breaks as part of a bid to halt a severe drop in people attending appointments.

The findings come from the newly published Report of The Independent Review of Adult Screening Programmes in England which Sir Richards has been working on since November 2018.

Most screenings take place in hospitals and GP surgeries which some people may find hard to get to, whether that is down to transport issues or work commitments. Sir Richards says that holding screenings in a range of locations would allow people to not skip the all-important screening that could save their life.

But there is work being done to offer some of the tests via mobile units at other health clinics, such as sexual health centers for cervical screening. Evening opening hours and weekends would also be beneficial, according to the report.

The particular areas that the government asked Richards to look at were:

  • Bowel cancer (men and women ages 60 to 74, or from 55 in some pilot areas)
  • Cervical cancer (women ages 25 to 64)
  • Breast cancer (women ages 50 to 71)
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms (a weakness in the main blood vessel supplying the heart in men ages 65)
  • Diabetic eye screening

Through his findings, Sir Richards recommends that implementing methods such as text message reminders for screenings and using social media campaigns to build awareness would increase attendance.

He also says that increasing awareness of trans and gender diverse issues amongst screening health professionals would again encourage more people to attend screenings.

The report also argued that outdated IT systems used for screenings must be changed as they are currently risking patients’ safety. It also pointed to the new test being developed for bowel cancer screenings which has been in the works with numerous delays for over a decade, meaning less efficient screenings are still ongoing.

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