Dr Donald McGeachy provided a quick update by stating that the program had been due to start in March/April 2020 but had been delayed due to the COVID pandemic. Plans had been looked into to start the scanning at the beginning of October 2020 with staff now on board who had received the appropriate training but unfortunately due to some technical difficulties at Luton Hospital this would probably now be delayed until January 2021. Members were informed there may be a small chance to start the scanning in Thurrock for two weeks in December before the Christmas Break. That the national program, due to the pandemic had now been extended to the end of March 2024. There was a national priority not to have screening for lung cancer shut down due to the pandemic and to get this up and running again and every effort had been made but with technical difficulties this had not been possible.
Councillor Ralph thanked Dr Donald McGeachy for this update and questioned that the program had been set up for 55 year olds and overs. Dr Donald McGeachy stated this would be for those between the age of 55 and 75, for those that had ever smoked and that a risk assessment would be undertaken to assess risks of lung cancer. Those at high risk of lung cancer would then have a Mobile CT Scan as part of that risk assessment. That the mobile CT scanner would be based at Thurrock Hospital and other supermarket sites around Thurrock.
Councillor Ralph questioned whether Vaping was still being encouraged instead of smoking. Dr Donald McGeachy stated that this did not form part of the program but for those existing smokers. Ian Wake stated Public Health were working very closely with this program to integrate the stop smoking services and that Vaping had been considered safer than smoking.
Councillor Holloway stated that a symptom of lung cancer was a cough which was also a symptom of COVID and questioned whether residents were being deterred from having checks or had the confusion of symptoms caused an increase in cases in Thurrock. Dr Donald McGeachy stated that as the program had not started yet it was unclear what the effects of COVID would be on those that come forward.
Councillor Holloway referred to the number of general practitioners who were registering smokers or those who had smoked in the past and questioned how many people had been registered and how many people had been screened to ensure that the data from general practitioners was accurate. Dr Donald McGeachy stated that a lot of work had been undertaken between the Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health and the data presented now would be more accurate than that previously presented to the committee. Councillor Holloway stated that this item had now been presented to committee on several occasions and it was the committee’s commitment to keep an eye on the accuracy of the data to ensure those figures had improved. Ian Wake stated prior to COVID a lot of work had been undertaken on this with 95% coverage of smoking status recorded.