By Local Democracy Reporter
SMOKERS across Thurrock are being urged to admit to their GP that they smoke or risk missing out on vital lung checks which could catch early signs of cancer.
Thurrock has been chosen by the NHS to roll out a Targeted Lung Health Check programme that aims to address the growing number of people with lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.
The borough has one of the highest rates of death from lung cancer in the country, as well as some of the highest rates of smoking.
When the targeted lung checks are launched in January, people aged between 55 and 74 with a history of smoking will be invited to by their GP to attend a check-up which will be able to calculate a person’s risk of lung cancer.
But during a health overview and wellbeing scrutiny meeting on Thursday night, concerns were raised about the number of residents who are willing to admit to their GP that they smoke.
Ian Wake, director of Public Health, warned that the criteria risks “missing half of the eligible population” as the latest council figures suggest that just 52 per cent of people’s background in smoking had been recorded.
He said: “What worries me is the latest figures we pulled off suggest that only 52 per cent of the eligible cohort had their smoking status recorded.
“This programme is due to go live in January which means that at the moment if we use GP services’ data, we risk missing half of the eligible population in Thurrock.”
When asked if recording can reach 90 per cent in time for the programme to being, Mandy Ansell, accountable officer for Thurrock’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We can only go as far as people are prepared to actually be honest about their status we can’t knock on doors and say confess.”
The CCG plans to begin boosting communication with residents to check whether they do have a have a smoking history and have stressed the importance of the lung checks.
The scheme was initially trialled in Manchester where lung cancer diagnoses at the earliest stage jumped from 18 per cent to 68 per cent.
The testing will be rolled out across the borough in January 2020 and be offered from mobile trucks operating in supermarket car parks and recreational grounds.
Ms Ansell added: “It is not only identifying the patients, but it is also getting them to come. The Manchester evidence shows they sent at least three letters out. We’ve got a double push here, we need honesty about smoking and to entice people to come.”