A recent independent study on the impact of Liverpool’s Healthy Lung Programme has found that it is improving early detection rates for lung cancers and undiagnosed COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
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 Healthy Lung 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, and now the programme is also being extended to those who live in Croxteth, Anfield, Riverside, and Liverpool City Centre too.
In its first year, the Healthy Lung Programme invited a total of 7,150 people to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic, and of those 3,207 people (45%) have either already attended the check up, or booked an appointment to attend a clinic soon.
The study into the impact of the Healthy Lung Programme, published by Queen Mary University London and University of Liverpool, showed that attending a Healthy Lung Clinic increases the chances of lung cancer being caught at an early stage, when it’s more easily treatable.
It found 75% of those who have received a lung cancer diagnosis through the Healthy Lung Programme after attending a Healthy Lung Clinic, received an early stage diagnosis, whereas typically in Liverpool, 70% of lung cancer cases are not diagnosed until a late stage, which makes treatment much more difficult.
However, more than half (55%) of those in Liverpool who were invited to attend a Healthy Lung Clinic because they may be at higher risk of developing lung cancer or COPD, have still not done so.
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 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.”
He adds, “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.”
One patient who has already benefited from attending a Healthy Lung Clinic is 70-year-old Dennis Kerrigan, from Kirkdale near Everton.
He explains, “I’ve worked in Kirkdale as a men’s barber for the past 50 years and when I received a letter at the shop back in February inviting me to get checked, I responded immediately.
“As well as working in that area of the city for most of my life, I’ve also been involved in the local music scene playing and singing with numerous rock ’n roll bands in smoke-filled venues. I was also an ex-smoker myself, so I knew I was probably at higher risk of developing some sort of breathing problem.”
Following an appointment at a Healthy Lung Clinic at his GP surgery where he was asked to complete a spirometry test, Dennis was subsequently referred for some chest scans. The results of these tests revealed that he needed to undergo surgery at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital to remove some cancer in his right lung.
Seven weeks after surgery, Dennis was given the all clear by his surgeon who was happy that the surgery had been a success.
Dennis adds, “I’m delighted to have been given the all clear. I feel so lucky to have had the cancer spotted so early and to have been treated so quickly through the Healthy Lung Programme – the care and treatment that I’ve received from everyone involved has been first class.
“I would urge anyone who receives a letter about attending a Healthy Lung Clinic to respond immediately and get checked out because it could save your life. Time is so important, so don’t wait any longer than necessary.”
Martin Ledson, a Consultant at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital who helped to treat him, added;
“The Healthy Lung Programme in Liverpool has proven highly beneficial in helping to find more cases of lung cancer and other serious chest conditions such as COPD.
“Evidence shows that if lung cancers are found at an early stage, before any symptoms are showing, treatment can be offered with a much better outlook.”
“Patients like Denis who have been diagnosed with lung cancer after attending a Healthy Lung Clinic are so thankful that they were offered early tests and treatment, because if their condition had been picked up later on, the outcomes may have been very different for them.”
Seamus Grundy, Chest Consultant at Aintree University Hospital added:
“Liverpool’s Healthy Lung Programme is an exciting project which is leading the way nationally on work to find, cure and prevent more cases of lung cancer.“Liverpool has a very high rate of lung cancer, and too much of is found at a late stage when it is not curable. The Healthy Lung Programme is all about finding lung cancers much earlier, and is undoubtedly saving lives.
“It’s also helping us to find lots of other lung diseases such as COPD, which are treatable conditions, but finding them early can allow us to intervene sooner and prevent it impacting negatively on a patient’s life.
“As a team, we believe we can have a really positive effect on the lung health of the city through the Healthy Lung Programme, but we need people to make an appointment to go to a Healthy Lung Clinic when they receive an invitation from their GP.”
Liverpool’s Healthy Lung Programme is now entering its second year, and is aiming to replicate this success in other parts of the city also identified as having high levels of lung cancers and COPD.
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.
To read the full evaluation report click here