Review of national cancer screening programmes to include focus on AI


A much anticpated national review into the three national cancer screening programmes in England is to incude a focus on technology.

Professor Sir Mike Richards will lead the review, which will inlude feedback on current and future IT systems and opportunities for the use of AI and other technology to aid the screening process.

Sir Richards, the NHS’ first cancer director and former Care Quality Commission chief inspector of hospitals, will recommended how the screening programmes can be upgraded to ensure patients and clinicians benefit from new technologies and treatments.

The final review is due to be published in the summer 2019.

“Screening is vital for the NHS to catch cancers earlier and save even more lives,” Sir Richards said.

“I am keen to hear views from as many people as possible about the strengths, challenges and opportunities, all of which will be invaluable in my recommendations for the future.”

He is seeking feeding from staff, patients, clinicians and other groups on:

  • Future management, delivery and oversight of screening programmes
  • How to ensure maximum screening uptake across the country and particularly in vulnerable and minority groups
  • Opportunities for the use of AI and other technology to help with cancer screening
  • Feedback on current and future IT and equipment
  • Having the right number of staff with the right training to deliver the programmes
  • Views on what screening should look like in ten years’ time

There are three national cancer screening programmes in place in England; cervical screening offered to women aged 25 to 64; breast screening offered to women aged 50 to 70; and bowel screening offered to men and women aged 60 to 74.

The Government in August announced plans to reduce bowel screening to 50.

The review comes after it was found checks were not made to ensure IT systems could deliver a new specification or trial and algorithm, which led to the breast screening scandal in 2018.

An independent review followed an announcement in May 2018 by the then-secretary of state for health and social care, Jeremy Hunt, that nearly half a million women might have missed their final breast cancer screening invitation.

At the time Hunt said the issue was due to a ‘computer algorithm failure’, but a review later concluded that was not the case.

As a result, it was recommended the IT systems used in the breast cancer screening programme be made simpler to use and any new systems introduced to support the programme should follow the principles set out in Hancock’s tech vision, including a full commitment to interoperability.

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