NHS England to overhaul cancer screening

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.

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

NHS England says that 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.

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; and 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, 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: how screening policy should be modified in the future, how best to integrate screening programmes with other initiatives the NHS cancer programme is leading; introducing new screening technologies and update IT; and how to ensure that the necessary workforce is trained to deliver the programmes.

Richards 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.”

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