An independent study on the impact of Liverpool’s Healthy Lung Programme, conducted by the University of Liverpool and Queen Mary University London, has found that it’s improving early detection rates for lung cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Liverpool has one of the highest mortality rates for lung cancer in England, and it’s also estimated that there’s around 6,000 people living with undiagnosed COPD across the city.
The UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial (UKLS) was undertaken in partnership with Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital, Papworth Hospital and the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital with the aim of highlighting the need for a screening programme to help benefit people who are at risk of developing lung cancer. The Chief Investigator of the UKLS trial is Professor John Field, who is based in the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine.
The results from the UKLS were considered excellent by the clinical community in Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and they wanted to utilise this information in a Service Evaluation programme with in the Liverpool neighborhoods. This led to the creation of the Healthy Lung Programme.
The programme was launched in April 2016 by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), working in partnership with local hospitals, NHS England, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, to help find and treat as many cases of lung cancer and COPD in the city as possible, as early as possible.
Over the past 12 months, the Healthy Lung Programme has been inviting those aged between 58 – 70 years, who have ever smoked and who live in areas of the city where lung cancer and COPD rates are highest, to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic at their local GP surgery for a short assessment of their lung health.
So far, this has included those who live in: Picton, Everton, Speke, Norris Green, but now the programme is also being extended to those who live in Croxteth, Anfield, Riverside, and Liverpool City Centre too.
To date, the Healthy Lung Programme has invited a total of 7,150 people to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic, and of those 3,207 people (45%) have either already attended, or booked an appointment to attend a clinic soon.
A study into the programme, published earlier this month by University of Liverpool and Queen Mary University London, shows how attending a Healthy Lung Clinic significantly increases the chances of lung cancer being caught at an early stage, when it’s more easily treatable.
It found that 75% of those who have received a lung cancer diagnosis through the Healthy Lung Programme, received an early stage diagnosis – whereas typically in Liverpool, 70% of lung cancer cases are not diagnosed until very late, which makes treatment much harder.
However, more than half (55%) of those invited to make an appointment to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic have still not done so.
Professor John Field, Clinical Professor of Molecular Oncology and the Chief Investigator of the UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial, said: “The UKLS trial has successfully demonstrated that we have a way to screen for lung cancer in high risk individuals in the UK.
“The Liverpool Health Lung Project has demonstrated that lung cancer screening of high risk individuals would have a major impact on the diagnosis of lung cancer at an earlier stage of the disease and would greatly improve the survival rates of those affected.”
Ed Gaynor, Cancer Lead GP for NHS Liverpool CCG and part of the Healthy Lung Programme team, said: “The findings in this study are great news for Liverpool because it means that we are finding and treating more cases of lung cancer and COPD than ever before. But at the same time, we also know that there are many more people across the city who could be putting their health at risk by not attending a Healthy Lung Clinic when invited.
“If you live in one of these areas and have received a letter from your GP inviting you to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic, either recently or at any time over the past year, you should book an appointment as soon as possible. Please don’t ignore it or put it off.
“Attending a Healthy Lung Clinic is just a routine check-up, and is nothing to feel worried about. During the clinic you will be asked a few questions about your general health and offered lots of useful information about how to keep your lungs healthy, in order to help protect you from developing lung diseases such as COPD or lung cancer in the future.
“You may find that it puts your mind at ease to get checked out, and even if they do find any problems with your lung health during the appointment, it will be far more treatable if caught at an early stage, so attending could also save your life.”
During Year 2 (2017/18), the programme will continue to deliver Healthy Lung Clinics, but will shift its focus onto four new targeted neighbourhood areas of Liverpool, including: Croxteth, Anfield, Riverside, and City Centre.
It will also be extending the age bracket of those being invited to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic to 58 – 75 years.