An NHS lung health check programme is being expanded across Merseyside
2 years ago
An NHS initiative that invites current and ex-smokers to get a MOT of their lungs is being expanded to include other areas of Merseyside.
The NHS lung health check programme, which began again in Liverpool in July, will be extended to St Helens and South Sefton next year as part of a major drive to catch more cancers earlier.
The NHS Targeted Lung Health Check programme involves past and current smokers in the target areas, aged 55 to 74, being invited by their GP to a lung health check.
Mainly based in convenient community sites like supermarket car parks, the NHS has already introduced lung health checks in 23 locations across the country that have some of the highest death rates from lung cancer – including Liverpool, Knowsley and Halton.
The expansion means another 20 sites nationwide will be launched, so up to 750,000 more people will be offered a check, including in South Sefton and St Helens from the middle of next year.
Data from the programme so far shows that with these potentially life-saving checks, lung cancer early diagnosis rates can be as high as 80% – compared to less than 30% without this type of intervention. People are invited to speak to a healthcare professional and, if they have a higher chance of developing lung cancer, will be offered a scan of their lungs.
Since July, the programme in Liverpool has invited around 10,000 people to take part, with around 2,300 later having scans. The scans are now taking place in Knowsley and will be in Halton in December.
Latest projections show a total of around 1.5 million people will have been invited for a lung health check across the 43 projects by 2024/25. It is expected 9,000 cases of lung cancer may be caught at an earlier stage than would have otherwise been found.
Dr Chris Warburton, Medical Director of Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance, said:
“It is really good news that the lung health check programme is being extended, with more people in Merseyside being able to take up this check, if they qualify for it.
“Lung cancer can often be hard to detect at an early stage and so these checks, close to people’s homes, show how the NHS is taking action to find more people with the disease.
“Lives are saved when cancers are caught early and when more people are referred for tests, which is why the NHS has put so much effort into early diagnosis in recent years.
“We know that some people had concerns seeking help during the pandemic but if you do have a worrying symptom or have been coughing for three weeks or more, please do contact your GP surgery and get checked out.”
Lung cancer can often be caught too late as there are rarely symptoms at earlier stages. Trial data shows two-thirds of cancers identified in the programme are likely to be earlier, enabling doctors to treat thousands of cancer cases sooner when curative treatment is more possible, saving more lives. This is a potentially transformational leap forward – across England on average only 28% of lung cancers are diagnosed at an earlier stage.
Dame Cally Palmer, NHS director for cancer, said:
“The rollout of our Targeted Lung Health Check Programme is a huge step towards reaching our NHS Long Term Plan ambitions of catching more cancers at an earlier stage when they are easier to treat.”