HPV – you’ve heard of it, but do you know what it is?

HPV – you’ve heard of it, but do you know what it is?

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus and, in most cases, clears by itself
  • Around 8 out of every 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives[i]
  • In some cases, HPV causes cells to become abnormal and advance into cervical cancers or genital warts[ii]
  • Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV infectionii
  • HPV is passed on by skin to skin contact, you cannot directly pass on cancer
  • Using barrier contraceptive methods reduce the risk of HPV infection, but are not completely effectiveii
  • From September 2019, all children in the UK age 11-13 in the UK are offered the HPV vaccine, those who missed it can get it free up to their 25th birthday
  • Men who have sex with men may be at increased risk of anal cancers via HPV infection and its recommended that that they request the vaccine from a local sexual health clinic
  • In women, cervical screening is another effective way to reduce the risk of developing cancer. It is for people without symptoms and can spot early cell changes caused by HPV, before they have a chance to become cancer

myGP is committed to all preventative cancer screenings across the UK and has worked closely with the NHS and Public Health England and several charities to work together to increase uptake and spread awareness of the various cancer screening programmes available on the NHS in England.

‘Prevention is better than cure’

Back in July, the Government published a Green Paper that set out a vision for the next 10 years that puts prevention at the forefront of the healthcare agenda. Over time, there has been a huge shift from the development of infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, a lot of which are preventable. We have an ageing population, which ultimately means that people are living longer, but often in poorer health. Lifestyle behaviours such as poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking and excess alcohol consumption all increase the risk of developing long term conditions and co-morbidities which require ongoing healthcare, putting a strain on NHS services.

We also know that at least one in every two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer screening saves thousands of lives each year through earlier detection and treatment. A key theme highlighted in the NHS Long Term Plan is the ambition to tackle health inequalities and unmet need, one of which is improving the uptake of screening and diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage for those who currently miss out.

The paper also sets out plans to ‘upgrade technology and digitally enabled care across the NHS’, making better use of these methods to improve healthcare access and clinical outcomes. Following its success with improving the uptake of screening, an independent review of adult screening programmes has recommended rolling out the implementation of text message reminders across all screening programmes in England.

What is the Engagement Hub?

The Engagement Hub builds on the success of traditional public health interventions (invitation and reminder letters), using GP-endorsed SMS reminders to target specific groups of individuals. The hub is a multi-channel software platform which allows us to connect with multiple GP practices to centralise patient communication. The primary method of engagement includes SMS messages however multi-faceted campaigns can be created including letters and telephone calls.

The Hub can extract mobile numbers from GP clinical systems so that it can send messages to a group of patients from multiple practices all under one gateway. It can be utilised for bespoke health promotion campaigns aimed at targeted groups of individuals, e.g. patients eligible for breast/cervical screening or vaccinations. The team manage the whole process and ensure that the selected mode of communication is coordinated in a timely manner with no GP practice interaction necessary, freeing up more time for practices to spend with their patients.

Engagement Hub Campaigns

The Engagement Hub platform, developed by iPLATO – the developers of myGP, has already shown demonstrable success by increasing the uptake of cervical screening across London by 4.8%, equating to an additional 13,000 more women being screened. This project has been commissioned for a second year and will run alongside existing healthcare campaigns including the:

  • Barnet Breast and Cervical Screening Programme
  • SMS reminders for women who are due to attend their first breast screening appointment
  • SMS reminders for women who are overdue and women who have never had a cervical screening appointment
  • North Central London Breast Screening Programme – SMS reminders for women who are overdue their second-timed breast screening appointment
  • National Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP) across Southwark – SMS and letters to refer patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes to participate in a free behavioural intervention

To find out more about the Engagement Hub and how it could help you, please contact our Project Delivery team at hub@iplato.com.

[i]  https://www.merck.com/about/featured-stories/hpv-awareness.html

[ii] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/infections-eg-hpv-and-cancer/does-hpv-cause-cancer

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