Digital technology used by NHSX to transform screening programmes

An independent review was published in October 2019 by Sir Mike Richards regarding the adult screening programmes in England. The screening programmes are some of the most effective interventions offered by the NHS, but in recent years have faced many incidents and the amount of screenings that have taken place have decreased.

Sir Mike made a few recommendations in his report of how to rectify these issues including how to improve the technology the screening processes use. Public health doctors will be pleased to hear that the NHSX will be including screening as one of their flagship programmes that will be implemented.

What do the NHSX need the screening technology to do?

IT systems used for screening programmes need to be able to do three things. They must be able to identify eligible candidates for screening, manage screening participants throughout the screening process from beginning to end and must collect data about the results of the screening for the individual participants as well as the programme.

Many of these IT Systems are unconnected or outdated in England which results in unnecessary effort and expenditure leaving staff and screening participants frustrated. The Digital Transformation of Screening programme will modernise and upgrade this technology over the next few years.

The NHSX will begin with breast screening and cervical screening and make sure that no one that is eligible for screening misses out on a screening opportunity and that anyone that has an abnormal screening result will be contacted for treatment.

The NHSX also aims to increase screening attendance especially those people are socially or economically excluded. User experience will be improved for everyone involved in the screening process from the participants to staff and everyone else who works in the programme.

The NHSX’s approach

Their approach will be based on the Secretary of State’s Tech Vision principles. So they will use already existing components like the NHS 2Referrals Service and Gov.UK Notify and componants will be reused across all screening programmes.

The team working on the new programmes include many professionals like programme managers, user researchers, public health specialists and clinical experts. The team were chosen from NHSX and Public Health England, NHS Improvement, NHS England and NHS Digital.

Next steps

The screening programmes are still in the very beginning stages, but the NHSX have already started addressing the screening IT Systems and looking for the solutions to make the programme successful from a technological view point. One of the ways screening appointment invitations will be sent is via text messages.

Discovery work based on the Government’s agile delivery principles regarding cervical screening and breast screening has been consolidated and a new call/recall system is being developed for cervical screening.

Targeted screening is one of the major services the programme is working on to offer, so screening will be offered to higher risk people first. These people are those that are more likely to develop the condition or disease they are being tested for. They will be able to be screened sooner and be treated quicker.

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