It has been reported by the BBC that NHS screening programmes in England require easier access for patients. This would include evening and weekend clinics to increase uptake.
A report by Professor Sir Mike Richards called for tests to be offered in a wider variety of locations, which could include mobile units. The report also recommended using social media to promote NHS screening programmes. This would help to increase awareness of the programmes currently available.
Professor Richards’ report looked at the following adult screening programmes following a request from the government:
- Bowel cancer (men and women aged 60 to 74, or from 55 in some pilot areas)
- Cervical cancer (women aged 25 to 64)
- Breast cancer (women aged 50 to 71)
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms (men aged 65)
- Diabetic eye screening
His report revealed that the above screening programmes were saving in the region of 10,000 lives a year. This was through prevention or early diagnosis of the conditions being screened. The programmes have the potential to save more lives if their availability was widened and awareness increased.
Every year 15 million people are invited to take part in the screening programmes but only just over 10 million take up the invitation. Bowel cancer screening programmes reported the lowest uptake at only 60%. Awareness and availability of the programmes therefore needs to increase.
Some changes such as a new easier to use screening test for bowel cancer have already started to be implemented.
However, there is more to be done. Professor Richards has suggested improvements such as screening being offered in a wider variety of locations. For example, screening in mobile units could take place in supermarket car parks and other health clinics such as sexual health centres. Weekend and evening appointments could also help increase uptake as people live increasingly busy lives and cannot attend appointments on weekdays. IT improvements are also required.
Professor Richards advised that local projects such as Facebook community groups and telephoning people who have not attended appointments have already helped to increase uptake.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that the recommendations made by Professor Richards were ‘sensible’ and they would be acted upon.
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