Three-year cancer screening programme across C&M results in increased participation in screening

A three-year programme focused on increasing the uptake of breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening appointments in Cheshire and Merseyside has come to an end, resulting in a number of successes including increased participation in screening.

The Collaborative led the programme funded by the Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance supporting national work including the NHS Long Term Plan goal that by 2028 all cancers will be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

The funding enabled the recruitment of eight cancer screening coordinators and the development of ‘Early Detect. Early Protect.’ a digital cancer screening toolkit to support frontline community staff having conversations with the public and patients about cancer screening and why it is important to attend when invited.

The toolkit which shares information on national screening programmes and provides resources to use with local communities including a conversational toolkit to support frontline workers having, at times, difficult conversations has been widely received with more than 1,100 individuals visiting the site so far.

Tracey Wright, Associate Director at the Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance

Tracey Wright, Associate Director at the Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance, said:

“Every year, around 16,000 people are diagnosed with cancer across Cheshire and Merseyside and 7,000 are killed by the disease in the subregion.

“Despite being delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic under a set of very difficult circumstances, the delivery of this three-year cancer screening programme has led to many successes and contributed to catching cancer earlier and ultimately saving lives.”

The appointed breast and bowel screening coordinators were placed in Cancer Screening Units in NHS Trusts across Cheshire and Merseyside and were all dedicated to improving the uptake and reducing the variation of screening across breast and bowel screening as well as addressing health inequalities by having a focus on those groups vulnerable to screening inequalities across the subregion.

The coordinators worked closely with GP Practices, local screening programmes and local communities, supporting those first-time attendee’s as well as non-responders to screening.

An evaluation of the programme was carried out and two interventions showed a demonstrable change in uptake due to the activities of the screening coordinator.

These included breast screening text message reminders sent at two weeks and a telephone call or letter after a further week. This resulted in an estimated 5.9% increase in participation by women invited to book an appointment for breast screening who hadn’t responded.

The second intervention was a bowel screening offer follow-up to people contacted by the GP practice who had not taken up the offer of bowel cancer screening when offered in the previous year. This resulted in an estimated 4.4% increase in participation.

The full evaluation for the cancer screening programme can be downloaded here