20th July 2023

Continuing to drive change and improvements in lung cancer

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It’s approaching a month since we received the green light for lung cancer screening. Whilst the announcement was warmly welcomed, words will only get us so far. We need to see action and so yesterday [Wednesday 19th July 2023] met with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, to understand the implementation plans for screening, NHS workforce, the symptomatic pathway and the importance of genomics.

Implementation plan for lung cancer screening

The aim is for lung cancer screening to be fully implemented by 2030. Existing targeted lung health check programmes will continue to operate and gradually rolled out across the country.

Approximately 20% of England currently has a lung health check. By 2025, the intention is 40% of the programme will be in operation, and full roll out within the next 4-5 years. Once fully integrated, the lung health check will convert into a national screening programme.

However, this will only be possible with an adequate workforce across the board. We shared the need for improvement across the cancer pathway – from diagnostic support in radiologists and radiographers to surgical expertise, as well as specialist nurse support and modernising IT infrastructure. We were assured that NHS workforce was a top priority, with the NHS long term workforce plan published at the end of June.

What about Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

With the announcement currently applicable only to England, we are keen to understand how the devolved nations will adopt screening. After raising our concerns, we were assured this would be addressed with the health secretaries.

In addition to this, we are supporting Welsh cancer charity, Tenovus, and have signed an open letter to the Welsh Government calling for lung cancer screening.

Symptomatic Pathway Improvements

With much focus on screening, we also made it clear we cannot ignore the symptomatic pathway and highlighted some of the current issues patients faced.

We discussed the need for symptom education, including lesser known and non-respiratory based symptoms amongst primary care. We also highlighted how important it was to move away from patient stereotyping. In order to speed up diagnosis, we need to shed these universal preconceived notions of who a lung cancer patient is and instead focus on what the symptoms are pointing towards.


With around half of people with non-small cell lung cancer having at least one mutation that has a targeted treatment available, it is vital that all patients are tested. Yet, a survey by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition in 2021, suggested around a third of patients were either not offered a biomarker test, or were unsure if they had been offered one.

We also raised the current and concerning issues around the length of time biopsy results are taking. In some instances, this can be up to eight weeks, which is not only agonising to all those involved, but also impacting on access to treatment. It was agreed that this was not accepting and needed to be investigated and rectified.

We managed to cover a lot in 30 minutes and, all in all, it was a very positive meeting. We left feeling lung cancer is a definite priority within the health agenda and we will continue to ensure it stays a priority.