The bowel screening team at the Hospital of St Cross is celebrating after the pioneering project it is part of won a national award for improving cancer treatment outcomes.
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust alongside its partners the Cheshire and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Public Health England and Cancer Research UK won a Healthcare Transformation Award in the category of Improving Cancer Outcomes for their pioneering new scheme focusing on bowel cancer screening.
The team in Rugby sent out bowel cancer screening kits to 1,227 people aged over 65 in Cheshire and Merseyside after a referral from firefighters following home visits to 16,509 pensioners.
Screening hub director Steve Smith said: “We were delighted that this joint project to improve patient care has won a national award.
"All men and women aged 60-74 are invited to carry out a test every two years, but this programme has shown that the face-to-face contact and advice that the Cheshire and Merseyside firefighters provide during their home visits really makes a difference.
"We’re now hoping to be able to work with other fire and rescue services across the Midlands and north west of England to be able to encourage even more people to get screened.”
Firefighters regularly visit the homes of vulnerable people over 65 to give advice on fire safety for a number of years.
But since February, the service has partnered with the NHS to provide some health advice as well to try to reduce the number of emergency visits to hospital.
Crews give out advice on how to avoid a trip or fall in the home, who to contact if people want to stop smoking or drinking and, crucially, advice on bowel cancer screening.
As a result fire crews in Cheshire carried out 15,935 visits from February 1, to June 25, which resulted in 1098 referrals for a bowel cancer screening kit to be sent out to people aged over 65.
Merseyside crews started doing the same at the beginning of May and have carried out 574 Safe and Well visits, generating 129 referrals.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service station manager Phil Byrne said: “The fire and rescue service has the unique ability to access homes of vulnerable people.
"We are pleased to be including such a worthwhile intervention as part of our home safety engagement.
"The feedback from staff conducting Safe and Well visits and the results show the benefits of face to face engagement.
"Our staff have had the opportunity to explain to clients in their home the benefits of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and ensuring the correct and appropriate screening kit sent out directly from the Bowel Cancer Screening Hub in Rugby, Warwickshire.
"In our first month we have completed 574 Safe and Well visits generating 129 requests for screening kits.
"This partnership work with NHS England and Cancer Research UK will no doubt improve uptake in the screening programme and evidence the value that the fire and rescue service brings to the safety and wellbeing to the communities we serve.“