The Man Van, an innovative new outreach programme using a mobile health clinic, launched last week (Friday 18 March) to provide free health checks for men and boost early diagnosis of prostate and other urological cancers.

The mobile health clinic will visit workplaces and churches in London, starting in Croydon, to improve healthcare access for men who are less likely to receive regular health checks, and are at risk of having cancer diagnosed late, when it is more difficult to treat.

The programme, developed by RM Partners, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, will focus on men of working age who often have worse prostate cancer outcomes than older men, particularly those in manual jobs who often struggle to access healthcare. Black men, who have roughly double the risk of developing prostate cancer and an increased risk of death once diagnosed, are also being encouraged to get checked.

With over 50,000 cases each year, prostate cancer is the most common form of male cancer in the UK. It is also the third biggest cancer killer in the UK and in 20% of cases in England men only seek medical help when their cancer is at an advanced stage and too late to cure.

The pilot programme will investigate whether this care model can improve diagnosis and survival of men in these high-risk groups. If successful, the approach could be rolled out more widely across the NHS.

The van is currently at a construction site in Croydon, where it is offering appointments to employees of the international construction company Lendlease, and there are plans for the van to eventually visit sites across west London.

The van has a built-in clinic space where, if appropriate, men are given PSA tests, which is a blood test, to speed up the detection of prostate cancer, as well as tests for common health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension.

After each clinic, a nurse will discuss the findings with those assessed and, with their consent, share this information with their GP. If necessary, men are referred to a specialist service by the van’s consultant, also from the hospital, for further investigations or treatment.

The van is visiting workplaces in partnership with the British Trade union, Unite the Union, along with community organisations, such as support groups and churches in Croydon.

Professor Nick James, Professor of Prostate and Bladder Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The earlier cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment, and speeding up cancer diagnosis can transform survival rates. Unfortunately, we know men often seek medical help for the disease and other serious conditions at a late stage.

“The van offers a private and relaxed space where men can come and chat about their health, be supported by clinicians and receive simple but potentially life-saving tests. We’re bringing the van straight to men at work and in the community so that we can boost early detection and treatment in men who might otherwise only see a doctor once their cancer has progressed. If the Man Van proves to be an effective model, we hope to see the approach rolled out more widely across the NHS.”

More information about Man Van here.