NHS screening appointments require more flexibility

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A review by Prof Sir Mike Richards has found that in order to increase uptake, the NHS screening programmes in England must improve accessibility to appointments in order to help those who have little free time to be screened.

The review concluded that the introduction of evening and weekend clinics, as well as tests being offered in a wider variety of locations, including mobile units, would all help to increase the number of people attending screenings.

Sir Mike, a former national cancer director and chief inspector of hospitals, was put in charge of analysing the five adult programmes that cover cancer and other conditions:

The programmes were:

  • bowel cancer (in those between the ages of 60 and 74)
  • cervical cancer (in women between the ages of 25 and 64)
  • breast cancer (in women between the ages of 50 and 71)
  • abdominal aortic aneurysms (in men aged 65)
  • diabetic eye screening.

He discovered that the screening programmes were saving around 10,000 lives a year, however they could still be saving many more.

With 15 million people being invited to be screened every year, and only around 10 million attending a screening, the programmes are not reaching their full potential.

Sir Mike highlighted the importance of making the screenings as convenient as possible, so that even the busiest of people will be able to take up their screening invitation.

He also said that social media is not being utilised enough to engage with the public and to stress the importance of being screened. He recommended IT improvements and suggested that responsibility for the screening programmes should lie with NHS England, rather than Public Health England.

Michele Benjamin, a chartered legal executive lawyer in the medical negligence team at Ashtons Legal comments: “It is important that changes are made in order to make these screening appointments more accessible for patients. There needs to be more use of different locations as well as evening and weekend appointments and I also believe there generally needs to be more awareness surrounding the need for prevention rather than the cure.”

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