Publish date: 8 February 2019

People in Halton and Knowsley aged between 55 and 74 who currently smoke or who have ever smoked, are to benefit from an £8 million targeted lung health check programme. The scheme will be community based and offer access to specialist stop smoking advice and appropriate follow-up, including a CT scan if needed.

The checks are designed to identify a range of health problems and speed up access to potentially life-saving treatment.

The £70 million national Targeted Lung Health Checks project, one of the first to be rolled-out following the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan, is launched around the country today and Halton and Knowsley are one of 10 targeted areas which have a considerably higher incidence of lung cancer than the national average. 

The plan sets out an ambition that by 2028, the proportion of cancers diagnosed at an early stage will have risen from the current 50 per cent of patients to 75 per cent, which means the possibility of treatment leading to a cure is increased.  The lung health check programme is just one initiative helping to deliver the required improvements. Finding and treating cancer at an early stage can save lives and is more likely to be treated successful.  It can also improve patients' quality of life, living with and beyond cancer.

Funding will be provided to Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, which will be formally accountable to NHS England for the delivery of the project and led locally by Halton and Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Groups.  The Alliance is now working with its partners to ensure this programme is established as soon as possible. This development will be a major contribution to its plan to tackle lung cancer and improve pathways of care for patients at every stage.

Dr Paul Morris, GP and Clinical Lead for Cancer at NHS Knowsley CCG, said: “The inclusion of Knowsley in this programme is fantastic news for local people. It means that people who are most at risk can be offered checks and will be able to get help earlier if they need it. Lung cancer death rates in Knowsley are more than double the national average and in 2016, more than half of these deaths were people under the age of 75. However, these new free Targeted Lung Health Checks mean that lung conditions, including cancer, can be detected early and NHS treatment is more likely to be successful.

“We look forward to working with the Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance, NHS Halton CCG and other partners to ensure we bring maximum benefit to those people who are offered a free lung check.”

Dr Chris Warburton, Medical Director for Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust welcomed the additional investment and encouraged all those invited to take up the invitation for a lung health check:

“The lung health check programme brings huge benefits in spotting a wide range of illnesses, including bronchitis and emphysema – not just cancer, and it is a great opportunity to access free support, advice and potentially treatment much earlier than might otherwise be the case.

“This builds upon the success of the pioneering schemes in Liverpool and Manchester that were acknowledged in the national plan.  We understand that it’s not always easy or convenient for people to access health services, which is why these checks will be delivered on the doorstep, in local communities close to home, sometimes from specialist mobile units.”