NHS England InHIP programme, Dorset Integrated Care System Cancer Programme, NHS Dorset, Wessex AHSN, and Wessex Cancer Alliance partner with C the Signs to take an innovative approach to improve cancer outcomes and tackle inequalities across Dorset.

The Dorset Integrated Care System (ICS) Cancer Programme, Wessex Cancer Alliance (WCA), and NHS Innovation support organisation Wessex Academic Health Science Network (Wessex AHSN) have joined with C the Signs – an early cancer detection system – to improve cancer survival and tackle inequalities, with the support of NHS England’s (NHSE) Innovation for Healthcare Inequalities Programme (InHIP).

C the Signs will be used across GP practices in Dorset to help identify patients at risk of cancer at the earliest and most curable stage of the disease. Covering the entire spectrum of cancer, C the Signs uses artificial intelligence together with the latest guidelines and research, to support healthcare professionals to spot the earliest signs, symptoms, and risk factors for cancer.

“C the Signs has the potential to really help GPs and their primary care teams in all aspects of patients’ cancer journeys. This includes detection, referral, and post diagnosis monitoring, as well as assisting with monitoring the return of diagnostic tests such as the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) [a stool test that can identify patients who are a higher risk of colorectal cancer]. The decision support tool assists in those cases where the correct pathway might not be so clear and will help ensure patients are referred on the right pathway at the right time,” said Dr Simon Wright, C the Signs Clinical Lead and GP Fellow.

“Supporting our primary care colleagues to detect cancers at an earlier stage, in areas where later stage diagnosis is a higher risk, is a key priority for Dorset. It also aligns with the NHS Long Term Plan ambition, to diagnose 75% of cancers at an early stage by 2028,” said Alex Geen, Head of Dorset ICS Cancer Programme.

Dorset’s ageing population has one of the highest rates of cancer in the UK. Early detection offers the best chance of survival, with over 90% of patients surviving colorectal cancer for 5 years or more if detected early, compared to less than 10% surviving to 5 years following a late diagnosis.

Anna Wykes, Programme Manager for Cancer Innovations at Wessex AHSN and Wessex Cancer Alliance, said “This collaboration with C the Signs, to support the use of FIT tests in Dorset, is an exciting example of how the AHSN is supporting and enabling ICBs to use innovative technology to address health inequalities to ensure all our communities receive equal access to timely healthcare and treatment.”

C the Signs’ new Colorectal Dashboard will support GP practices to increase the number of patients identified at risk of colorectal cancer and those who undergo FIT testing. With an in-built monitoring system, C the Signs will track all patients to ensure they are diagnosed as soon as possible.

Despite Dorset having a generally low level of deprivation, there are areas where deprivation is high, and it is important we give equal importance to these areas when it comes to accessing healthcare services. With support from NHSE’s InHIP Programme and aligned to the Core20PLUS5 approach to reduce healthcare inequalities at all levels, this partnership will drive local awareness and community engagement, to increase the number of patients identified and diagnosed with cancer from at risk communities.

C the Sign’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr Bea Bakshi, said “Diagnosing patients with cancer early gives them the best chance of survival. As a GP I saw too many patients being diagnosed far too late with cancer. Finding cancer early is like finding a needle in a haystack. C the Signs takes a truly innovative approach to find these patients reliably and accurately and aims to give every patient the right to survive cancer.”

“We are excited to be working with Dorset ICS Cancer Programme, Wessex AHSN, and Wessex Cancer Alliance to improve cancer outcomes across the whole region and in the most under-served and deprived communities.”

David Freeman, Chief Commissioning Officer, and Deputy Chief Executive for NHS Dorset said, “One of our key priorities is to add healthy life years to people living in Dorset and early detection of cancer symptoms is key to us achieving this as when caught early, survival rates are greatly improved. We are confident C the Signs will help us realise our ambition.”