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Response to Professor Sir Mike Richards Review of NHS Adult Screening in England

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 00:00

This morning Professor Sir Mike Richards' Review of NHS Adult Screening in England was published. The report was jointly commissioned by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to make recommendations on overhauling national screening programmes, as part of a new NHS drive for earlier diagnosis and improved cancer survival. Read our comment below.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: 

"We welcome this long-awaited report from Professor Sir Mike Richards, which we hope will be the catalyst for much needed change in England’s cervical screening programme. As he says ‘urgent change’ is needed to ensure the programme can reach its full potential. However we need to see quick and decisive action as a result of the recommendations before we are confident that the change needed will take place.

The speed at which innovation and changes have been introduced in England has been embarrassingly slow to date and far greater accountability and transparency is needed to ensure action is taken. The recommendations require significant investment and we call on the government to commit to the necessary funding as soon as possible. 

As the report states, there is a clear need for change to be facilitated far more readily and easily. England is being left behind Wales and Scotland who have far more advanced IT systems and ring fenced funding for innovations such as self-sampling pilots. We have continually raised our ongoing concern over the complex governance structure which has led to a lack of decision making and progress and are pleased to see our policy calls detailed in the report. A simpler structure is welcome, yet it is essential that it is the right body, with the right skills and resource at its disposal. We cannot afford to lose the expertise that exists in organisations such as Public Health England. Advisory boards and committees supporting the programme must be made up of the right people and organisations who will actively drive through change and take forward research while holding others to account.

We have long been calling for more accessible appointments, with women able to book and attend screening at locations other than the GP they are registered with, and are pleased to see this referenced. This is not a simple move and we look forward to seeing a roadmap to making this happen. The future of the programme is hugely exciting with advancements such as artificial intelligence on the horizon, yet we issue a caution that in addition to looking ahead, we must not lose sight of the urgent and pressing issues we currently face. This includes an IT system that is not fit to support the existing programme, let alone that of the future. As we are about to move to HPV testing we have to hope that the current systems are able to support this important programme change.

It is positive that the report highlights the needs of different groups regarding targeted awareness and equity of access to screening. There is so much great practice happening already at a local level and sharing the evidence will mean resource can be expended where it will have the greatest impact. 

Women in England, now and in the future, deserve the best possible cervical screening programme. Yet we are currently failing them. Now is the time for action."