Together with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust we are piloting a new NHS health programme across Greenwich, which aims to detect lung problems, including cancer, earlier on when it is more treatable.
The Targeted Lung Health Check (TLHC) programme provides people aged 55 to 74, who are registered as a current or former smoker with their GP, the opportunity to receive a free NHS lung health check, as they have a higher risk of developing lung problems.
The pilot first launched in south east London in October 2022, with the lung health check being offered to thousands of people living in areas of Southwark.
Do you smoke or have you smoked in the past?
Around 14,000 residents in Greenwich aged 55 to 74, who are registered as a current or former smoker with their GP, can now expect to receive a letter in the post. The check can detect lung cancer and other respiratory conditions early on, even before symptoms appear.
Dr Kimuli Ryanna, Clinical Director for the Targeted Lung Health Check programme in South East London, said: “Most people find out they have lung cancer when it's too late, which is why it's essential to attend your appointment and get checked if asked. Diagnosing problems early is crucial as it means that treatment is more likely to be successful.
“You may not be experiencing any symptoms right now, but that’s exactly why we need to catch any respiratory problems early – to stop things from getting worse. If you’re not a smoker but you know someone who has received a letter, please encourage them to go along to their health check.”
What does the lung health check involve?
Eligible residents will receive an invite in the post asking them to book a phone assessment with a nurse to explore chest symptoms and their risk of lung cancer and other respiratory conditions.
Residents who would benefit from having an additional face-to-face examination will have the opportunity to receive a quick and painless scan of their lungs – known as a CT scan - in a community van at Park Row Car Park, near the University of Greenwich.
Former smoker Pauline, who lives in Greenwich, booked a telephone appointment after receiving her letter and was then invited for a lung scan. Pauline has described her experience of receiving the vital new health check and said: “I was petrified about having a scan but when I arrived at the community van, the nurses were friendly and immediately put me at ease.
Pauline continued: “During the scan, I was able to have a pillow underneath my health and a foam cushion under my knees. I’d do it again.”
The 73 year old added: “As a former smoker, I was grateful for the chance to receive this check because if there is anything, it can get sorted out.”
Pauline is now encouraging others who have received a letter to book their appointment. She said: “Think of who is important to you and think about being around for them. If there is anything wrong, the doctors can pick up on it and sort it, so you will still be around for your loved ones.”
Improving early diagnosis in lung cancer
So far, we’ve invited over 20,000 of people across Southwark and Greenwich – with thousands of people registered for a call and being invited for a lung scan.
This has coincided with a media campaign, which we launched in November last year, and press stories to encourage people to attend their check.
To coincide with the roll out of the Targeted Lung Health Check (TLHC) programme in Greenwich, we will continue to run our media campaign to raise awareness about the importance of early diagnosis in cancer and encourage those who have been offered a lung health check, to attend.
The campaign assets were developed by AstraZeneca and is based on optical illusion imagery with the message “your eyes can play tricks and so can your lungs,” to highlight that some people may be living with an undetected lung health condition.
In April, we will be running a Facebook advertising campaign to encourage and support eligible residents in Greenwich to book their lung health check.
For further details about the TLHC programme, visit: www.sel-lunghealthcheck.nhs.uk.
We also have posters that you can download, print and display in GP practices, hospital waiting areas, pharmacies, local shops and businesses in Greenwich.