Published on: 24 August 2021

The Nudge the Odds behavioural science programme being led by South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (ICS) Cancer Alliance has been shortlisted for a national Health Service Journal (HSJ) Award – one of the longest running and most prestigious healthcare awards in the country. 

The programme, aiming to make small behaviour changes to diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage; helping improve patient care, experience and chances of surviving and living well, is being run by health, care and voluntary sector organisations across Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield.  

The Covid-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on our health and has resulted in less people coming forward with potentially worrying signs and symptoms or for routine screening appointments.  

HSJ .jpgProfessor Des Breen, medical director for the region’s Integrated Care System and co-chair of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS Cancer Alliance, said:  

“It is fantastic that the programme is receiving such recognition. We initially looked at applying a behavioural science approach to encourage more people to attend for their routine cervical screening (smear tests) in Mexborough and after a lot of hard work from the practice staff and partners, we saw more and more people coming forward.  

“Due to the successes of the pilot and seeing the impact of Covid, we decided to expand the programme to see how else we can support small changes to have the biggest impact – in this case, improved health and life chances. The earlier we find potential cancers, the better people’s chances are of having the right treatment quickly and living well for longer.   

“The programme involves training staff and voluntary and community colleagues in having the best conversations, recognising signs and symptoms, and encouraging patients and members of the public to make positive choices to care for their health – for example by choosing to attend for a smear test or making an appointment with their GP to talk about a worrying cough.  

“In some cases the change is as simple as the wording we use – understanding the barriers faced by different people to make sure we’re explaining things in the best way.” 

Working with behavioural science experts, Caja, the Cancer Alliance looked at information on missed referrals – how many less people were coming forward for GP appointments than expected or compared to previous years – and have focused on key areas where the biggest changes can be made, namely some of the most deprived areas of the region with the highest risk factors for cancer.  

The programme is being run in partnership with Clinical Commissioning Groups, local Trusts, voluntary organisations, charities, pharmacies and primary care organisations to reach and support as many people as possible in coming forward, making and attending appointments.  

For more information about the programme and the work taking place to improve cancer care, treatment and experience, please see: