72,000 people in Sussex will be invited for an NHS lung health check

People aged 55 to 74 living in Brighton and Hove, and Crawley will be invited to an NHS lung health check over the next 18 months in a drive to improve earlier diagnosis of lung cancer and save more lives.         

Invitation letters to patients registered with GP practices in the Crawley Care Collaborative Primary Care Network and West Hove Primary Care Network are being sent out from this month to September. A mobile scanning unit will be in place in the car park of Sainsbury’s West Hove Superstore from 18 July and the Asda Crawley Superstore from 21 July. Other GP practices in Brighton and Hove will be inviting patients over the coming 18 months.                    

Brighton and Hove, and Crawley are among 43 locations across the country chosen to run the Targeted Lung Health Check programme, selected on a basis of population size, lung cancer prevalence and mortality. Brighton and Hove has the highest mortality rate from lung cancer across Sussex, and Crawley has the fourth highest lung cancer incidence and smoking prevalence in the region. 

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death1 and can often be caught too late as there are rarely symptoms at the earlier stages. The lung check programme is designed to identify those most at risk of developing lung cancer in order to spot signs earlier, at the stage when it’s much more treatable, ultimately saving lives. You are three times more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage through a lung scan. Small and early lung cancer can often be removed completely by operation or treated with radiotherapy or immunotherapy. In previous trials, the lung screening reduced lung cancer mortality by 26% in men and between 39% and 61% in women.

Around 50,000 people aged 55 to 74 living in Brighton and Hove, and 22,000 in the same age group living in Crawley will be invited by letter to a lung health check by the Targeted Lung Health Check team over the course of the programme. Based on previous pilots, this could identify an estimated 600 cases of lung cancer earlier than otherwise would have been.  

Those invited will have an initial phone assessment with a specially trained health care professional. If the assessment finds the person to be higher risk, they will be offered a free low dose CT scan of the lungs for further investigation (a CT scan is a series of X-rays taken from different angles). The scanner is housed in a mobile unit, which will be located at convenient locations across the city.

A mobile unit will move between the two superstore carparks throughout the summer – spending the first three weeks of each month in West Hove and the final 10 days of the month in Crawley. During those dates, the unit will run seven days a week, Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm, and Sunday, 10am to 4pm. On board will be a medical nurse, a healthcare assistant and a radiographer. Appointments are by invitation only – after the phone assessment has taken place.

Patients from the following GP practices will be the first to receive an invite for an initial phone assessment:

West Hove Primary Care Network - Hove Medical Centre, Wish Park Surgery, Links Road Surgery, Benfield Valley Healthcare Hub, Mile Oak Medical Centre and Portslade Health Centre.

Crawley Care Collaborative Primary Care Network - Bridge Medical Centre, Langley Corner Surgery, Leacroft Medical Practice and Southgate Medical Group.

Dr Tina George, clinical lead for cancer at NHS Sussex and co-clinical director for the Sussex Targeted Lung Health Check programme, says: “For a number of reasons, lung cancer is one of the hardest cancers to diagnose early, so the Targeted Lung Health Checks are very welcome. This is a great example of proactive health care to ensure early diagnosis through direct outreach into local communities.

“I would encourage everyone to take up their invite, if they receive a letter from the Targeted Lung Health Checks team. Think of this as a lung MOT - as well as having an assessment with a specially trained nurse, and possibly a CT scan, people can also be given support to quit smoking.” 

In England, on average, only 28% of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. However, with this initiative, lung cancer early diagnosis rates can be as high as 80%.

Dr Jenny Messenger is a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, co-clinical director for Sussex Targeted Lung Health Check programme and Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance’s clinical lead for lung cancer. She says: “If we can find lung cancer at an earlier stage, there is a wider range of treatment options available to patients including curative surgery or radiotherapy. The Targeted Lung Health Checks will improve patient outcomes, improve their quality of life, and ultimately save lives.”  

As smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer2, patients who are invited for a lung health check will also be offered advice and support to help them stop smoking.

Latest projections show as many as 1.5 million people will have been invited for a lung health check across 43 locations in the UK by 2024/25. And the Targeted Lung Health Checks working towards a fully rolled out national programme in the next five years.

For more information on the Targeted Lung Health Check programme, visit www.sussexlunghealthcheck.nhs.uk/

1 & 2 - Cancer Research UK What is Lung Cancer?