The national cancer screening programmes are vital to help identify cancers at an early stage where patients’ outcomes are more likely to be better, and in some instances, to help prevent cancer by identifying pre-cancerous changes.

Increasing bowel cancer screening participation

Participation in the national bowel cancer screening programme has the lowest uptake of any of the national cancer screening programmes, with uptake across west London ranging from 54% to as low as 36% against the national target of 60%. To improve uptake in west London we are piloting the use of the bowel screening phone reminder service across our 14 CCGs, beginning in Wandsworth.

We commissioned Community Links, a local charity, to contact patients who have not completed the national bowel screening kit in west London within the last 12 months to answer questions they may have and encourage them to participate. The project approach has been shown to improve bowel screening completion by up to 9% in other areas of London.

Community Links is working with GP practices to identify appropriate patients. It will provide GP practices with health facilitators, who often speak the same language as the population they serve, and who will make three attempts to call patients at accessible times of the day (including evening and weekends).

The facilitator will discuss the screening process with them, helping them to understand the importance of screening, how to use the kit properly, order a replacement if required, and generally encourage participation in the programme.

Each GP practice across west London will take part for up to three months, providing enough time for all eligible patients to be contacted. The project will last for one year, and it is estimated that over 140,000 calls will be made over this period.

Providing easier-to-access cervical screening clinics

The national cervical screening programme saves an estimated 5,000 lives every year in the UK and provides the best protection against cervical cancer. However attendance is at a 20 year low and incidence of cervical cancer is worryingly high, with nine women diagnosed with the disease every day in the UK.

RM Partners is working in partnership with the GP Federations and CCGs in Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton, and Wandsworth, to offer new evening and weekend cervical cancer screening clinics at convenient locations close to transport links. The aim is to make it easier for women who received an invitation to take up this lifesaving test.

The project will be led by practice nurses with administrative support, who will:

  • Contact GP practices with poor uptake figures
  • Run patient searches to identify patients who have not been screened
  • Raise awareness of and invite patients to the new clinics

The project will run until March 2019 and could be further rolled out across west London following proof of concept. We are also providing substantial funding to NWL Collaboration of CCGs to implement similar programme in other CCGs across north west London.

Increasing screening uptake in marginalised groups in Kingston

Cancer screening rates are especially low in groups who tend to have lower response rates to traditional methods of screening invitation, such as those with a learning disability, the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers and those who speak English as a second language.

We have developed an approach with Kingston Public Health, in which a community development worker is building on existing links with these groups and engaging with them to encourage participation in cancer screening. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Holding screening awareness events with specific groups, including older and vulnerable people, travellers, and Somali, Tamil, Korean and Gujarati communities
  • Producing screening awareness material in languages including Arabic, Farsi, Korean and Tamil
  • Translating screening invitation letters for patients with English as a second language
  • Working with Cancer Research UK to develop and train ‘cancer community champions’
  • Creating a simple tool on Facebook for residents to have cancer-related conversations

The project started in January 2018 and will run for one year. Ongoing performance metrics, such as number of people attending awareness sessions and number of cancer screening appointments made as a result of the project, will be captured to evaluate the pilot’s success.