NHS England announces ‘major overhaul’ to national cancer screening programs

The National Health Service (NHS) England announced a “major overhaul” to national cancer screening programs in an effort to curb cancer-related mortality. The NHS will conduct a review, led by Michael Adrian Richards, MD, to evaluate established screening programs and determine improvements.

The review will also assess how the latest innovations, including artificial intelligence, can be utilized for cancer screening. Importantly, the review committee will explore staffing issues as there is a lack of radiologists across the U.K.

At present, the NHS has three nationwide screening programs for cervical, breast and bowel cancers.

“There is no doubt that the screening program in England save thousands of lives every year, however, as part of implementing NHS’s long-term plan, we want to make certain they are as effective as possible,” Richards said in a prepared statement issued by NHS England. "This review provides the opportunity to look at recent advances in technology and innovative approaches to selecting people for screening, ensuring the NHS screening program can go from strength to strength and save more lives.”

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), an open critic of NHS England’s handling of staffing issues in the U.K., has welcomed the new plan to take a focused look at improving cancer screening across England.

“We are extremely pleased and relieved that staffing will be under review, as many breast units are stretched to the limit, a situation that will only deteriorate as a result of the large number of anticipated retirements,” the RCR wrote in a prepared statement. "Regardless of the promise of technological advances, without improved staffing the breast screening program will falter."  

The review committee will submit its findings and recommendations by the summer of 2019.