For the latest updates on cancer during the Covid pandemic, always check the NCL Covid-19 GP website cancer pages.

For North Central London cancer remains the largest single cause of premature death. The three cancer screening programmes (breast, cervical and bowel) are delivered by the NHS through screening centres (bowel and breast) or in primary care (cervical). The reference guide in the downloads area highlights good practice in primary care. 

Late stage cancer diagnosis, compared to early stage diagnosis, results in poorer survival rates, worse patient experience and significantly increased costs. Patients diagnosed through screening usually have early stage disease, and five year survival for these patients is 93% compared to less than 10% for those with stage four disease. 

Cancer screening programme coverage* in North Central London is lower than both the London and the national average. There is evidence that interventions delivered through primary care can have a significant impact on improving participation in screening, overcoming some of the barriers and inequalities experienced by different patient groups. 

*Note on Coverage & Uptake: Coverage is the number of people screened within a designated time period (e.g. 5.5 years for cervical screening) out of the number of eligible people. Uptake is the number of people who attend screening within 6 months of being invited, out of the total number invited.

Key messages for primary care from the Good Practice Screening Guide

  • designate a cancer screening lead from a member of the practice healthcare team
  • check patient contact details at each encounter and regularly maintain the practice list
  • ensure that the practice has the most up to date mobile phone number for patients and has obtained the appropriate consent for using this number
  • ensure that Prior Notification Lists (PNLs) for cervical screening are dealt with promptly
  • ensure that advance lists (where available) for bowel screening are dealt with promptly
  • ensure that DNA/non-responder reports are flagged in patient records using the correct codes and followed up promptly
  • offer cervical screening opportunistically if due or appointment missed
  • actively promote cancer screening within the practice
  • do not omit patients with special or additional needs and ensure arrangements are in place for them
  • do not omit patients with a previous cancer diagnosis. They may be at higher risk of a new cancer in the same or a different site
  • ensure all practice staff know how to use the bowel screening kit and how to request a new kit
  • make screening and signposting information for each screening programme readily available


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Last updated: Jun 2nd, 2021
Review date: Apr 2nd, 2022