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 and cervical screening as well as geographically across 28 London boroughs. Over the last 10 years the team from Community Links has called more than 200,000 patients who had not returned their bowel screening kit or had ignored their invitation for breast and cervical screening. They were able to speak to approximately 60% of these patients. Of those spoken to, 20% subsequently returned their kit and we have seen an increase of 10% in uptake on breast and cervical in those areas that we have covered with our calling programmes.

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 Engagement Facilitators and the Bowel Health Improvement Team from different Screening Centres across London 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.

Our programme on the news

HSJ – ‘Telephone reminder programmes facilitate cancer screening

Public Health England – ‘Tackling screening inequalities in BAME communities

‘Report of the Independent Review of Adult Screening Programmes in England