New year will bring health check opportunity to borough

THURROCK residents will soon be able to undergo checks that will assess how healthy their lungs are as part of an NHS scheme to tackle lung disease.

The borough was picked alongside Luton to pilot the lung testing scheme due to the high number of smokers in the borough.

Figures from Thurrock’s clinical commissioning group shows that almost 10 per cent of the population smoke and this has led to lung cancer becoming the fourth most common cause of death.

Mandy Ansell, accountable officer for Thurrock’s Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Targeted lung health checks are an important part of our overall strategy to reduce deaths from lung disease in Thurrock.

“Lung disease is often detected quite late which makes it harder to treat successfully. By detecting symptoms earlier than we would have otherwise, we’ll be able to offer more treatments, such as curative surgery which will save lives.

“The Thurrock initiative is based on successful pilot projects in Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham.

“Before the project in Manchester only 18 per cent of lung cancers were diagnosed early at stage one and 48 per cent at stage four.

“When the mobile screening unit visited the city there was a significant improvement, with 68 per cent of lung cancers diagnosed at stage one and 11 per cent at stage four.”

The testing will be rolled out across the borough in January 2020 and be offered from mobile trucks operating in supermarket car parks and recreational grounds.

It will primarily be aimed at people who have a history of smoking and are aged between 55 to 75.

Patients who fit that criteria will be sent a letter from their GP practice inviting them to ring up for an initial telephone screening around their general and lung health.

If they are considered eligible, they will then be invited to visit a lung health screening truck where they will be checked over by a respiratory nurse. If they are still smoking, they will also be offered stop smoking support.

Those most at risk will be offered a CT scan.

Donald McGeachy, GP Lead for the Thurrock Lung Health Checks project, said: “This is Lung Cancer Awareness month, we would like to use this opportunity to promote the need for everyone who has smoked or still smokes to consider their lung health, even if you do not fit the lung health project criteria.

“If you have had symptoms of breathlessness, a cough that won’t go away, after 3 weeks or more, or notice changes in your health you should see your GP as soon as possible.”

On Thursday night councillors of the health overview and scrutiny committee will meet to discuss the scheme in more detail.