About our Health service
Community Links delivers a telephone support programme designed to increase screening participation amongst populations who are less likely to take part, or have ‘low uptake’. It is deeply rooted in our Early Action approach, the aim is to identify cancer at an early stage in order to provide relevant treatment before it is too late, so increasing survival rates. The service helps to create a community who are healthy, aware of the issues they face and ready to make informed decisions.
Community Links was first commissioned by public health to provide the service in Newham in 2010, and has been continuously funded since then. The programme initially focused on breast screening uptake, but has expanded to support bowel screening as well as geographically across North and South West London . Over the last 7-8 years the team at Community Links has called over 130,000 patients who had not returned their bowel screening kit, and was able to speak to approximately 60% of these. Of those called, 10% subsequently returned their kit. Where we speak to people directly we know this proportion increases to between 18-29%. The service is expanding in 2018/19 across North and South West London making 85,262 calls over twelve months.
We work with GP practices to contact patients who have not responded to screening invitations or sent back screening kits and encourages participation, raises awareness about signs and symptoms, and responds to any queries or concerns. Patients are contacted by Health Facilitators who are recruited from their local community, and reflect local demographics with the language skills to interact with the various ethnic groups within a community. This approach helps to create Deep Value relationships with patients, building trust with the individuals and encouraging them to act on the advice our facilitators provide.
In addition to the telephone screening service, Community Links has delivered the ‘small c’ cancer awareness campaign in Newham and Camden. Our outreach programme targeted members of the community from different backgrounds and educated them on the signs and symptoms of breast, lung and bowel cancer. We also used our initiative in secondary schools and sixth forms where we talked to pupils about the importance of self-examination and the dangers of shisha. We work closely, in all our programmes, with Cancer Research UK Facilitators to stress the message that if cancer is caught early it is much more likely to be survived and treatments required are less likely to be less severe.
Find out more about our Health work with our publications here.