A major overhaul of cancer screening has been launched as part the NHS Long Term Plan’s drive to improve care and save lives.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, who announced the initiative, was the NHS’ first cancer director and is the former CQC chief inspector of hospitals. He is leading an independent review of national screening programmes. Early detection of cancer, while the condition is easier to treat, is central to the plan which aims to prevent tens of thousands more deaths each year.
He will recommend how they should be upgraded to ensure they remain world leading and that patients benefit from new technologies and treatments.
As part of his work, Prof Richards wants to hear views and ideas from staff, patients and other groups to inform recommendations for the future of cancer screening. “Screening is vital for the NHS to catch cancers earlier and save even more lives," he said.
“I am keen to hear views from as many people as possible about the strengths, challenges and opportunities, all of which will be invaluable in my recommendations for the future.”
NHS England announced in November 2018 that Prof Richards would lead this work and the review will make a series of recommendations to the NHS England board about the future delivery of cancer screening programmes.
He is seeking feedback on a number of areas including:
- Future management, delivery and oversight of screening programmes
- How to ensure maximum screening uptake across the country and particularly in vulnerable and minority groups
- Opportunities for the use of AI and other technology to help with cancer screening
- Feedback on current and future IT and equipment
- Having the right number of staff with the right training to deliver the programmes
- Views on what screening should look like in 10 years’ time
- Screening can help spot problems early before a person has any symptoms, when cancer is often easier to treat. In some cases it can even prevent cancers from developing in the first place, by spotting people at risk.
There are three national cancer screening programmes in England.
- Cervical screening – offered to women aged 25 to 64, with screening offered every three years for women aged up to 49 and every five years from 50 to 64
- Breast screening – offered to women aged 50 to 70, with women over 70 able to self-refer for screening
- Bowel screening – offered to men and women aged 60 to 74, and another bowel screening test offered to men and women at the age of 55 in some parts of England.
The review is expected to be published by summer 2019.