Breast cancer and diabetic eye screening to be first beneficiaries of NHS £70m digitisation scheme

Secondary care minister sheds light on funding and implementation plan to Digital Transformation of Screening programme, which aims to provide patients with a range of web and app booking options

Screening processes for breast cancer and eye problems caused by diabetes will be the first to benefit from a multimillion-pound NHS transformation programme, a minister has revealed.

Government has committed funding of £68m to ongoing Digital Transformation of Screening (DToS) initiative, according to health and secondary care minister Will Quince. The project is being led by the Transformation Directorate of NHS England and was first launched in early 2020 – shortly after the publication of an independent review of adult screening programmes that found that “numerous issues affect and hinder their functioning and lead to delays in making improvements which are already proven to work”.

The remit of the DToS scheme is to develop new digital options through which patients can book and manage appointments. The scheme is ultimately intended to expand to cover all 11 population screening programmes run by the NHS. But implementation work will begin by focusing on two schemes in particular.

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“The first two national screening programmes to receive these products will be the National Health Service breast screening programme and the diabetic eye screening programme,” Quince said. “Subsequently, the product will be adapted for use by other existing and new national screening programmes.”

The minister’s comments were made in response to a written parliamentary question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who asked whether the DToS project would “deliver an online and NHS app booking system for breast cancer screening appointments”

“The products are planned to support online and app booking as well as call centre booking for those who do not wish to use digital products,” Quince responded “DToS will also explore the extent to which the app can be used for other communications with individual members of the public related to their screening requirements.”

The other screening programmes offered by the NHS include: abdominal aortic aneurysm; bowel cancer; cervical HPV and cancer; fetal anomalies; infectious diseases in pregnancy; newborn and infant physical examinations; newborn blood spot testing; newborn hearing; and sickle cell and thalassaemia.

Sam Trendall

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