Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay delivered an Oral Statement on the national lung screening programme.

The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP

[Mr Speaker], with permission, I would like to make a statement on our national lung cancer screening programme for England.

Around a quarter of patients who develop lung cancer are non-smokers, and we think about our much missed friend and colleague, the former member for Old Blexey and Sidcup, James Brokenshire.

He campaigned so tirelessly to promote lung cancer screening, and was the first MP to raise a debate on this in parliament. His wife Cathy is continuing the brilliant work he started in partnership with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

In 2018 after returning to work following his initial diagnosis and treatment, James told this house the Government should commit to a national screening programme and use the pilot to support its implementation.

He said, and I quote, “If we want to see a step change in survival rates – to see people living through rather than dying from lung cancer… now is the time to be bold”

Now despite being a non-smoker, James knew the biggest cause of lung cancer was smoking. And the most deprived communities had the highest number of smokers.

That’s why the PM and I today have announced a targeted lung cancer screening programme, at a national level, building on our pilot which will be targeted at those who smoke or who have smoked in the past.

Lung cancer takes almost 35,000 lives across the UK every year – more than any other cancer.

Often patients do not have any discernible symptoms of lung cancer until it is well advanced, in fact forty percent of cases present at A&E

Since its launch in 2019 and even with the pandemic making screening more difficult, our pilot programme has already given 2,000 lung cancer patients in deprived English areas an earlier diagnosis.

This matters.

Because if their cancer is caught at an early stage, NHSE state that patients are nearly 20 times more likely to get at least another five years to spend with their families.

We all know smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.

It’s responsible for almost three-quarters of cases.

And in deprived areas, people are four times more likely to have smoked.

So, we’ve deployed mobile lung trucks equipped with scanners to busy car parks in 43 deprived areas across England.

Before the pandemic, patients from these areas had poor early diagnosis rates: only a third of cases were caught at stages one and two.

To put that into context…

… while a majority of patients diagnosed at stage one and two get to spend at least five more years with their children and grandchildren, less than one in twenty of those diagnosed at stage four are as fortunate.

But thanks to our targeted programme, three-quarters of lung cancer cases in these communities are now caught at stages one and two.

Targeted lung cancer checks work. They provide a lifeline for thousands of families. We need to build on this progress.

That’s we are expanding this programme so anyone in England between the ages of 55 and 74 who is at high risk of developing lung cancer will be eligible for free screening…

…Following the UK National Screening Committee’s recommendation that this will save lives.

This will be the UK’s first and Europe’s second national lung cancer screening programme.

If results match our existing screening – and there’s no reason they shouldn’t – this programme when fully implemented will catch 8-9,000 people’s lung cancer at an earlier stage per year.

Each and every year, this means there will be 16 people in every English constituency who will be alive five years after their diagnosis who wouldn’t have been had we not taken the steps we are today.

That means more Christmases or religious festivals with the whole family sat around the table.

Alongside screening to detect conditions earlier, we are also investing in technology to speed up diagnosis.

We’re investing £123 million in AI with tools like Veye Chest which allows radiologists to review lung X-rays 40% faster.

So, suspicious X-rays are followed up sooner, and patients begin treatment more quickly.

So, how will our lung cancer screening programme work?

Using GP records, current or ex-smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 with high risk of developing lung cancer will be assessed through telephone interviews.

Anyone deemed at high risk will be referred for a scan. And they will be invited for further scans every two years until they are 75.

Even if they are not deemed at high risk of lung cancer, every smoker who is assessed will be directed towards support for quitting.

Because despite smoking in England being at its lowest rate on record, tobacco remains the single largest cause of preventable death.

By 2030, we want fewer than 5 per cent of the population to smoke.

That’s why in April, we announced a robust set of measures to help people ditch smoking for good…

…one million smokers will be encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes in a world first national scheme…

… all pregnant women will be offered financial incentives to stop smoking…

… And HMRC is cracking down on criminals who profit from selling counterfeit cigarettes on the black market.

This lung cancer screening programme has been a game changer for many patients: delivering earlier diagnoses, tackling health inequalities, and saving lives.

We’re taking a similar approach to tackle obesity – the second biggest cause of cancer across the UK.

The pilot we announced earlier this month will ensure patients in England are at the front of the queue for innovative treatments by delivering them away from hospitals in a community setting.

Together, this shows our direction of travel on prevention, which is focused on earlier detection of conditions through screening and better use of technology to speed up diagnosis and then treatment…

… because identifying and treating conditions early is best for patient outcomes and ensuring a more sustainable NHS for the future the next 75 years.

I commend this statement to the house.

Published 26 June 2023