A double-decker, NHS-branded bus has been travelling around the UK this week to raise awareness of cancer symptoms and early diagnosis.
The Stagecoach-operated bus, with NHS staff and Cancer Research UK nurses on board, is visiting five areas of the country where early diagnosis rates for cancer are lowest.
This initiative is part of NHS England’s Help Us, Help You campaign which seeks to increase early cancer diagnosis as well as combat health inequalities.
NHS doctor and TV presenter Dr Dawn Harper, who joined the bus crew for part of the tour, said ‘body vigilance is absolutely crucial’ and encouraged the public to contact their GP practice if something ‘doesn’t feel right’.
The doctors and nurses on board have been engaging with passers-by to explain the signs and symptoms of cancer and to encourage them to visit their GP for checks.
From November 2022, all GP practices in England were able to directly order fast-track cancer diagnostic tests, including CT scans, ultrasounds or brain MRIs.
NHS England said its awareness campaigns have increased the number of people getting checks. According to the organisation’s figures, over 2.8m people were seen for cancer checks last year, which is an increase of almost 20% from the same period before the pandemic.
Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer, said people should ‘feel empowered to come forward’ when they notice something isn’t right in their bodies.
The NHS treated the highest number of cancer patients on record last year, with 320,000 people receiving cancer treatment from November 2021 to October 2022, according to NHS figures.
Health secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘It is important that patients do not ignore symptoms in the belief they will simply go away and instead look at information on the NHS website and see their GP if they have symptoms.’
Today the bus is stationed in Leicester, and by the end of the week it will have visited Blackburn, Sunderland, Barnsley, and East London.
Written on the bus’ exterior is the message that 65 out of 78 passengers within it would survive cancer if caught at the earliest stage.
Following the end of the tour, this messaging will remain as the bus goes back into service for Stagecoach in Manchester.
At the end of last year the NHS entered into a three-year advertising contract with M&C Saatchi for the Help Us, Help You campaign.
The deal was worth £28.6m and was focussed on encouraging people to access NHS services in the right way at the right time.