NHS to screen for lung cancer in trucks in supermarket car parks

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/08/nhs-to-screen-for-lung-cancer-in-trucks-in-supermarket-car-parks

By Denis Campbell, health policy editor

Health chiefs hope £70m spend will save lives in areas with high death rates from disease

The NHS is spending £70m placing mobile scanning trucks in supermarket car parks in a bid to cut deaths from lung cancer by encouraging patients to undergo a check-up.

NHS England chiefs hope the initiative will improve Britain’s poor record on the early diagnosis of lung cancer and survival rates. Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

The trucks will offer people aged 55 to 74 who are at high risk of developing lung cancer an “MOT for their lungs” and a computerised tomography scan of their lungs and chest.

They will be positioned in areas that have high death rates from lung cancer, which claims almost 36,000 lives a year across the UK. These are usually deprived regions that have or have had high rates of smoking, the main cause of the disease.

Around 600,000 people in England will be offered the chance to attend a screening appointment over the next four years, either in a mobile truck or at a hospital. NHS bosses hope that this will lead to the detection of an estimated 3,400 cases of lung cancer, and save hundreds of lives.

Making lung screening easier to access is intended to encourage more “hard to reach” groups, especially poorer people, men and lifelong smokers, to be tested.

It is a key element of NHS England’s ambition, outlined in its recent long-term plan, to reduce the number of people dying prematurely from cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases by 55,000 a year.

“These new projects will save lives,” said Cally Palmer, the organisation’s national cancer director.

“Early diagnosis for cancer is crucial as it is easier to treat, not only saving lives, but it will also mean thousands of patients will avoid life-changing treatments.”

The NHS has pledged to increase the proportion of cancers diagnosed early, at stages one and two, to 75% over the next five years.

Seven mobile trucks will operate in Hull, Doncaster, Gateshead and other parts of the north of England, with two in the south and one in the East Midlands.

The initiative follows the NHS in Manchester’s pioneering use of such units in supermarket car parks, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support. The 20-minute appointments were billed as “lung health checks”, rather than cancer-screening appointments, and targeted deprived areas.

Overall 42 (3%) of the 1,384 scans carried out in the trucks by specialist nurses led to a diagnosis of lung cancer. Of those, 80% were identified at stage one or two and 89% underwent “treatment with curative intent”.

“Taking testing to the places people visit regularly like supermarkets is an excellent way to catch lung cancer and other respiratory diseases sooner,” said Wendy Preston, head of nursing practice at the Royal College of Nursing.

But she warned that the NHS needs to recruit more specialist cancer nurses to keep up with the growing number of people being referred for testing and treatment and to staff efforts at early diagnosis.

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