GPs could be offered financial benefits to boost cancer screening

An independent review of cancer screening in the UK has suggested a number of ways in which the take-up of test appointments could be improved, including offering GPs financial incentives to provide out-of-hours and weekend appointments.

According to Professor Sir Mike Richards, who led the review, there must be ‘a consumer revolution’ in how people access potentially life-saving tests, as part of a package of urgent action to arrest the slide in the number of people who turn up to be screenings.

As the report points out, a decreasing number of women are being screened for both breast and cervical cancer, which must be addressed. The statistics are concerning, with 71 per cent of women in England keeping their cervical cancer screening appointment – the lowest proportion since the late 90s.

Breast cancer screening has an equally low percentage, but bowel cancer has the lowest take-up rate, with only 58 per cent of those invited showing up for their appointment.

Sir Mike Richards noted out that screening programmes currently save around 10,000 lives every year, which is a good thing, but they are “far from realising their full potential”, so must be available to fit in with people’s increasingly busy lives.

The review recommends remedies such as opening GP practices outside the current hours, ringing and writing to people who do not attend their appointment, as well as posting messages on Facebook community pages.

Cancer charities have welcomed the review and the likely overhaul of screening that will follow. Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive, said that getting more people to attend would help it achieve its aim of saving 55,000 more people a year from dying of cancer by 2030, by improving early diagnosis.