The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us all in ways we could not have imagined 18 months ago. This is as true of our NHS screening services as it is of so much else we once took for granted.
There have been huge challenges for all staff delivering NHS screening programmes. But we’ve constantly been heartened (and hugely impressed) at the dedication and commitment shown.
You may have spotted our recent blog thanking staff who deliver and support the antenatal and newborn (ANNB) NHS screening programmes. In this article, we focus on the NHS abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening, bowel cancer screening, breast screening, cervical screening and diabetic eye screening programmes.
While the challenges faced by the 5 young person and adult (YPA) NHS screening programmes (as we collectively refer to them) have been quite different, the commitment and dedication shown by the people on the frontline who deliver them has been just as absolute.
A tremendous achievement
Anne Mackie, Director of PHE Screening, said:
There has been a massive amount of work at local and national level to restore and continue NHS YPA screening programmes during these very difficult times. This is through a fantastic team effort involving PHE, national colleagues in NHS England and Improvement, regional screening and immunisation teams, screening quality assurance service teams, local screening providers and other partners. Not only this, but many services have done so while working at reduced capacity. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to you for all your hard work.
Deborah Tomalin, Director of Public Health Commissioning and Operations in NHS England and NHS Improvement, said:
We recognise the huge pressures you've all been under as a result of COVID and appreciate that everyone went above and beyond first, to maintain our NHS screening services where at all possible, and secondly, in the ongoing work to restore and recover the programmes. I’d like to thank everyone involved in all your different roles for your exceptional professionalism, dedication and hard work.
Some of the challenges
As you all know, nothing stays still in NHS screening. While you are all working tremendously hard in continuing to restore services, you have also been keeping up to date with the latest guidance and developments. Services have:
- implemented the risk stratified restoration of DES to enable those most at risk of sight loss to still be screened and referred to hospital for treatment if needed
- supported the national evaluation of self-sampling in cervical screening, which includes recruiting participants for the study and training sites
- implemented new guidance to support individuals who find it hard to attend cervical screening
- set up reminder text messaging services in breast screening
- embedded updated guidance for the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP)
- supported the move to digital first information in diabetic eye screening and transition from print to digital AAA screening follow-up information
- screened the 2 millionth man in the AAA screening programme
- started to prepare for the new NHS Cervical Screening Management System
We also know that you (to name just a few):
- maintained failsafe processes
- carried on providing screening data that has enabled us to assess quality and operational challenges in services
- dealt with (and in many cases are still dealing with) illness and reduced capacity
- are currently working hard to restore screening services safely by building additional capacity and embracing new ways of working, such as telephone specialist screening practitioner (SSP) appointments and open invitations in breast screening
Interim QA visit process
Thanks also to all the providers who have engaged with PHE’s interim quality assurance (QA) visit process. We’ve had lots of positive feedback over the last 12 months and there’s still chance to have your say. So please get in touch with your QA contact if you have any thoughts you wish to pass on about the process.
Stay up to date
There is not enough space here to cover all the tremendous work you’ve all done, but we can assure you that you are all greatly appreciated and valued.
Finally, a quick reminder to stay subscribed to the blog to remain up to speed with screening developments (details below) as we all hope for a return to more normal times.
PHE Screening blog
The PHE Screening blog provides up to date news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new blogs. If you have any questions about this blog article, or about population screening in England, please contact the PHE screening helpdesk.