Cancer screening to be overhauled as part of NHS long term plan to improve care and save lives

15 Nov 2018 12:31 PM

Professor Sir Mike Richards will lead a major overhaul of national cancer screening programmes as part of a renewed drive to improve care and save lives, NHS England yesterday announced.

Increasing early detection of cancers when they are easier to treat is at the heart of the NHS’s long term plan to upgrade services and make sure patients benefit from new technologies and treatments.

Sir Mike, who was the NHS’ first cancer director and is the former CQC chief inspector of hospitals, will lead a review team to assess current screening programmes and recommend how they should be organised, developed and improved.

The NHS has been world leading by introducing national cancer screening programmes which have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

The review will look at how latest innovations can be utilised, including the potential use of artificial intelligence, integrating research and encourage more eligible people to be screened. It will also look to learn lessons from recent issues around breast and cervical screening.

As part of the process, the review will advise NHS England and Public Health England on the best operational delivery model for current screening programmes, including possible changes to currently outsourced provision.

Professor Sir Mike Richards yesterday said: “There is no doubt that the screening programmes in England save thousands of lives every year, however, as part of implementing NHS’s long term plan, we want to make certain they are as effective as possible.

“This review provides the opportunity to look at recent advances in technology and innovative approaches to selecting people for screening, ensuring the NHS screening programme can go from strength to strength and save more lives.”

Steve Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, yesterday said: “Screening is a vital and effective tool in our fight against cancer. However, recent issues with breast and cervical cancer screening have shown that we need to look closely at these existing programmes.

“Sir Mike has wealth of experience in healthcare and is ideally placed to lead this independent review.”

Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England Medical Director, yesterday said: “The NHS’s world-leading cancer screening programmes are a key early intervention that saves lives, and Sir Mike Richards is uniquely well placed to advise on how we improve it for the 21st century.”

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.

The review, which is expected to report by summer 2019, will assess the strengths and weakness of the current cancer screening programmes, making recommendations on a number of areas including: