Health: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Independent, Liverpool, Wavertree

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to pages 19 to 23 of the National Audit Office report entitled Investigation into the management of health screening, published 30 January 2019, what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that threshold targets in all cases of (a) abdominal aortic aneurysm, (b) bowel screening, (c) breast screening and (d) cervical screening are met.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer are key priorities for this Government, and the Department is already working closely with NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) to address the issues this useful report highlights.

The Department holds NHS England to account for the delivery of all adult screening programmes through regular Section 7a accountability meetings where the three organisations review all the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the functions of the S7a agreement including screening coverage data, with a focus on review of any service improvement initiatives and mitigating actions NHS England have put in place where there is underperformance. Screening programmes are part of the bundle of preventative services commissioned by NHS England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under the Public Health Functions Agreement (or Section 7A agreement).

NHS England agrees contracts with providers of adult screening programmes to deliver the targets set by the Department, and NHS England manages these contracts to deliver the required performance. National and local levels of performance are measured to reduce variation in local levels of performance against threshold targets.

The Long Term Plan published in January sets an agenda to improve uptake of screening and ensure that all screening and vaccination programmes are designed to support a narrowing of health inequalities.

NHS England also works closely with PHE and the Department and charities on campaigns to boost the proportion of the eligible population that attend for screening. These campaigns aim to increase awareness of the importance of screening and address variations and inequalities.

Furthermore, NHS England announced in November 2018 that Professor Sir Mike Richards will lead a review of the national cancer screening programmes. The review, expected to report by summer 2019 will include recommendations about how best to maximise uptake of screening, and iron out variation in uptake rates between different geographical areas and different population groups.

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