8th November 2019

New NHS cancer screening equipment is a step in the right direction

View all Early detection

November 8th is World Radiography Day, marking the discovery of x-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895.

Radiographers play a vital role in diagnosing lung cancer, ideally at the earliest opportunity when curative treatment is possible.

However last month, results from a study by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) revealed Britain has far fewer scanners or staff to operate them than other European countries, prompting calls from ourselves, and fellow UKLCC members, for a ‘radical change of priority’ to prevent lives from being lost.

One step forward

It has since been announced that 78 NHS Trusts across England are to get new cancer screening machines and funding from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to replace, refurbish and upgrade current CT and MRI scanners. 

Many of the new machines will also be able to work with artificial intelligence (AI), to help ‘future proof’ the NHS. Funding to upgrade the scanning equipment will be issued over the next two years.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, welcomed the news but warns that much still needs to happen to improve early detection rates:

“We see this is as a step in the right direction, certainly. Detecting lung cancer in its earliest stages is key to saving lives, as our own pilot scheme has proved. 

“But, as shown by the recent report by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition, Britain currently has far fewer scanners or staff to operate them than other European countries – just seven radiologists per 100,000 people compared to the EU average of 12. That absolutely must change.

Yes, providing new and upgraded equipment is good news but it’s far from the complete solution. We still need the staff to operate the scanners and correctly interpret the data they provide.

“Using Artificial Intelligence may help ease the burden, but the NHS still needs more properly-trained skilled radiographers.”

The NHS Trusts which will receive funding for the equipment upgrades are listed here.