Published: 05 January 2022

How NSS is working to reduce inequity in screening

In 2021 the NSS set out to share the many ways the organisation is working to reduce inequity to participation in screening.

We published our findings in December in the report Working to Reduce Inequity in Screening 2021. The report details the variety of projects we have undertaken to improve access to our services and improve the outcomes for people who use our service.

Our Challenge

When we talk of health inequities we’re talking about the avoidable and unfair differences that negatively impact health in different groups of people. An example could be people living in areas where poverty is high having reduced access to safe housing, healthy food, education, and healthcare, all of which impact health. This creates an unfair divide between different groups of people in society. Those who come from socially excluded groups experience inequity more.

National screening programmes work by inviting large groups of healthy people to undergo testing to check for early signs of disease or to identify people who need more tests. Those from socially excluded groups are less likely to participate in screening services. This may be because they find it difficult to engage with health services, or that we have communicated with them in a way that isn’t easily understood by them. We do research to help us understand what we need to improve. We have a Public Patient Partnership panel to advise us. We also appreciate feedback from people entitled to use our services so we can understand what makes it hard for them to take part. With your help, we can make changes that help you.

Let’s think about:

  • The woman who needs a hoist to have her breast screening test – what practical support can we offer her?
  • The person who receives their letter from BowelScreen and can’t read or understand it – can we invite them in a different way?
  • The migrant woman who can’t understand the breast screening information and so can’t consent to her mammogram – can we provide a language interpreter?
  • The Traveller man without access to post on his site who didn’t receive his Diabetic RetinaScreen invitation – how can we follow up with him to ensure he gets his invitation?
  • The lesbian woman who is not sure if she needs a cervical screening test, because she doesn’t think she’s at risk of cervical cancer as she doesn’t sleep with men – can we give her accurate, relevant information?

Our Commitment

We want to ensure that every step of the screening journey, from invitation to treatment, is accessible. We are learning and listening to communities; using this information to improve people’s outcomes and experiences of screening.

We will continue this work in 2022, looking at what is working in our services, what improvements are needed and working collaboratively with communities to understand the lived experience of our service users, so we can better meet their needs.

For more information please contact: Lynn Swinburne, Senior Health Promotion Officer, Public Health Department, NSS.