Andrew Potts on the Targeted Lung Health Check truck

From the outside, the Targeted Lunch Health Check (TLHC) mobile unit looks like nondescript van parked outside your local supermarket. Inside, it is a sleek series of rooms, a pathway cleverly designed to lead you through a lung health check process that normally takes several hospital visits. 

“I received one of those general letters to get my lungs checked,” said Andrew Potts, aged 60. “I’m a smoker. I wasn’t going to go but because it was right next to Asda, I thought I could get something for tea. It looks like a normal lorry but inside there are so many rooms and scanning machines. It’s like the TARDIS. You’d expect The Doctor to walk out.”

Andrew Potts attended the Targeted Lung Health Check which was parked in his nearby Asda supermarket

The Targeted Lung Health Check scheme was originally launched by Wythenshawe Hospital in collaboration with Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership in Manchester. It is now an NHS England programme and delivered in collaboration with Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance locally. It was established to detect cancer in in some of the city’s most deprived areas. By bringing the scanner into the community, the team running the TLHC mobile units aim to encourage more people to get checked in the most convenient way possible.

“It’s so important that we pick up cancer at an early stage,” said Emma Loftus, a CURE Specialist Nurse. Each patient when entering the unit is seen by the nurse team where they are asked about smoking history and other risk factors. The clinic can see up to eighty patients a day. Current smokers are able to see the CURE Specialist Nurses for support on how to stop smoking.

Further on down the pathway, patients have the chance to take part in vital cancer research. Francisca Fernandes, a Clinical Research Nurse, collects data for the study of lung cancer.

“It’s for the future and how we can improve this process,” she said. “There are so many people who want to take part and in one day I can recruit over thirty people! It’s great to be able to have that interaction. People really appreciate it and want to help with research as much as they can.”

Finally, the patient will be led to the CT scanner, depending on the outcome of their LHC risk assessment. The one-stop design is highly effective for making the whole visit as quick as possible.

“The people there were fantastic. They were willing to explain everything and answer all my questions,” Andrew Potts said.

“It was done in less than half an hour and I never thought more of it. A few weeks later, I got a ring on the telephone. They had found something, a nodule in my right lung.”

Andrew, a retired policeman who worked as a civilian officer at the time, believed his general ill health had been due to his late shifts. The biopsy, that the doctor at Wythenshawe Hospital arranged for him, showed he had cancer. After surgery and a treatment of chemotherapy, he has a positive outlook for the future.

“The recovery time doesn’t matter to me, I’m just so grateful. I’ve had fantastic treatment and I’ve cleared the first hurdle.”

Another patient who saw great value in the TLHC scheme is Eileen Metcalf, aged 73. “I got a letter, so I went. It took under an hour and I got a cup of tea. The people there were brilliant, they really put me at ease.”

Eileen knows the importance of cancer being caught in the early stages, having been diagnosed back in 2018.

“If someone has invited you go and check out of your lungs, just drop everything and go! It’s going to take a day out of your life and if they do find something, they can sort it. Whatever is wrong with you, you’re in good hands

Professor Richard Booton, Clinical Lead for Lung Cancer at Wythenshawe Hospital and Programme Director for the GM TLHC programme said: “The targeted Lung Health Check programme is revolutionary for finding cancers earlier. By bringing the scanner directly into the community, the scheme can directly contact those at most risk and intervene when the cancer is at its most treatable.”

The mobile TLHC units are expected to roll out to other parts of Greater Manchester in the Winter of 2023, inviting all eligible GM residents over the coming years.

Alison Jones, Director of Cancer Commissioning and Early Diagnosis at Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, said: “So many people have already benefitted from having a targeted lung health check and we look forward to expanding this service so that more people in Greater Manchester can benefit. We want to find cancer at the earliest stages when chances of successful treatment are more likely.”