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How we are working to reduce inequalities in screening

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Last month Public Health England hosted an ‘Inequalities in Screening’ workshop. This brought over 80 national experts to London to discuss the practical steps we need to take to ensure that we systematically address inequalities in screening uptake.

We were pleased to see from the day that there is huge enthusiasm for identifying, addressing and monitoring reduction in inequalities of access to screening programmes. Hundreds of projects are underway or have been carried out which attempt to better understand and reduce inequalities.

Throughout the day attendees discussed a number of topics, such as how sharing national data can play a vital role in encouraging local areas to improve on their results, how to work effectively with health and wellbeing boards, as well as  highlighting roles and opportunities amongst CCGs and local authorities.

Organisations were also invited to share local and national good practice and evidence on effective interventions.

The programme included talks from national speakers and workshop sessions covered important topics such as screening in prisons and how data that we already have could be accessed and used to improve inequalities in local areas.

Difficulty around access to data on inequalities was a major theme of the day, and was identified as a key area which will have a major impact on building new ways to ensure equal take up of screening. It is of course incumbent upon public health professionals to ensure that over time, local initiatives will be based on real, robust evidence.

It is also vital that, where possible, local initiatives are encouraged and that we provide local authorities with the tools to measure the effect of their actions. In addition, we should again, where possible, attempt to summarise these actions at a national level so we can measure their effect on a larger scale.

Some specific actions and suggestions for national action also came from the day, which will be worked up into a plan. This plan will look at what national bodies can do to support local action, and will take into account a series of actions which came from the workshop.

Our next step is utilising and improving the data we have. While we are far from having a complete set of data, we currently have much more than many people are aware of or can access.

It is extremely important that teams are able to share more widely what is available in order to drive further action and acknowledgment of the issue. We plan to share a list of data items with health care professionals and local authority teams, and crucially, communicate better how they can be accessed.

Another action is to develop a network of interested individuals to develop and share learning in inequalities in screening. There is also a proposal for a specific network to address the needs of people with learning difficulties.

This may be in the form of a local team taking on a leadership and co-ordinating role to develop resources, evidence, evaluation and sharing of good practice. This will create resources for professionals who plan and deliver services for specific groups of people, such as those with severe mental illness.

Across the system we want to be able to share local and national good practice and peer reviewed evidence on effective interventions, so that teams can learn from each other and develop new ways to tackle inequalities.

These plans will help us develop a new approach to tackle inequalities in screening, which is encouraging. I look forward to seeing more progress being made in this area.

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