16 October 2019

College President Professor Jo Martin responds to Professor Sir Mike Richards' screening report

Professor Jo Martin, President of the Royal College of Pathologists said:

‘Screening programmes are key to detecting cancer early. The sooner a diagnosis is made the easier the cancer is to treat and pathologists are critical to the diagnosis of cancer.

‘We welcome the drive to increase the uptake of screening, but without the right IT support and investment in workforce, pathologists will not be able to continue to keep pace with increasing demand. 

‘We are pleased to see that our some of our main concerns have been recognised. Making sure the recommendations become reality is crucial. We look forward to Professor Sir Mike Richards’ more detailed report on diagnostic capacity. Ensuring that we can deliver a world class screening programme depends on having the right number of pathology staff with the right expertise in the right places.’

Early in 2019 the College hosted a working conference to contribute to Sir Mike’s screening review. The event brought together doctors, nurses, policy experts, representatives from public health, the charity sector and patient groups.

Feedback from the participants raised a number of issues about the screening programmes. In particular, the problems caused by the age and complexity of IT systems in use; a highly committed workforce faced with increasing demand and a lack of robust workforce planning; the need to make screening more convenient and acceptable to those being screened; and the complex and multi-layered arrangements for accountability and governance, which can mean that when incidents do occur, it is not always obvious which organisation should take the lead on investigating.

 Professor Sir Mike Richards' Review of National Screening Programmes in England.