This £1million CT scanner is operating in a Doncaster miners welfare car park and could save 200 lives

It’s the sort of £1million health facility that you would normally find in a top hospital.

But this is not the heart of the Doncaster Royal Infirmary site in Intake.

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This is the car park of Rossington’s miners welfare building, on a bright spring morning in what was once one of Doncaster’s biggest pit villages.

Dr Jason Page with the scanner which will be operating in car parks in Doncaster under the Doncaster Lung Health Check programme

And in just a couple of weeks time, what appears to be a mobile building that has been dropped off today on the back of a lorry in the grounds of the West End Lane venue, will be a hive of activity as residents take advantage of a scheme which aims to address what health experts see as a serious health problem.

The borough has been selected for a pioneering scheme which is aimed at transforming the survival chances of victims of lung cancer, with a scheme which has been named the Doncaster Lung Health Check programme.

After an initial six weeks in Rossington, the scheme will move on to sites in other communities, including Edlington, Mexborough and Adwick.

Doncaster has been chosen for the scheme because it has some of the worst levels of lung cancer in the country, and its industrial heritage of mining and the railways has also impacted on lung health over the years.

Doncaster Lung Health Check programme - Dr Jason Page

Also, last year, official figures ranked Doncaster as having the sixth highest proportion of residents who smoke in the UK, and third in Yorkshire.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics estimated 19.1 per cent of adults in Doncaster smoked in 2019, down from 19.6 per cent in 2018.

Dr Jason Page, clinical director of the Doncaster Lung Health Check programme, said: “Doncaster has a higher rate of lung disease and that’s partly based on the history of mining and the historical nature of the town, as well as high rates of smoking.

"Doncaster has one of the highest rates of lung cancer, just above Barnsley and Rotherham within South Yorkshire, and that has put it top of the pack for this project. And the south of Doncaster had the highest rates within Doncaster.”

Doncaster Lung Health Check programme. Clare Glazebrook

The first scans using the new site are due to start on March 29. It will continue in Rossington for six weeks, depending on the take-up rate.

But before that, GPs are going to be ringing patients who have a history of smoking to ask them questions about their health.

Some of those, depending on the survey, will be invited to come for a scan at the miners’ welfare.

It follows a successful pilot scheme in Manchester.

Doncaster Lung Health Check programme. Radiographer Deo Malanog

Dr Page, a South Yorkshire GP for 20 years, said: “It is so important to find lung cancer early. Most often, people present with lung cancer when the symptoms have progressed too far. But if it is picked up early, it's curable.

"The plan longer term is to move this to other parts of Doncaster, and then to the centre. All those who are scanned will be invited back in two years for another.

"The success of this, for me, will be if people live for 20 to 30 years rather than a year, as they might otherwise if they had not done this.

"I’m hoping to save 200 lives, depending on how many turn up.”

Inside the mobile building is a low dose CT scanner, which takes a scan of the whole body, showing any tumours. It could also pick up other forms of cancer, as well as other lung conditions and even damage due to Covid 19.

At the end of the room which contains the scanner, is a large window, behind which sits the radiographer who operates the machine.

Doncaster Lung Health Check programme

Radiographer Deo Malanog will be doing the work.

He said he was looking forward to getting started in Doncaster, having previously done similar work in other parts of the country.

"It’s new for the area, and it’s quite exciting,” he said.

The project was initially due to start a year ago.

But the impact of the coronavirus put the plans on hold, until it was finally given the go ahead this month.

Clare Glazebrook, the lung health programme manager for Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group is encouraging people to take up the offer of the checks.

She said: “The idea is the service is easily accessible for the local community and they don’t have to travel. The original plan was for blood pressure tests and COPD tests as well, but that has had to be scaled back because of the pandemic.”

Residents were supportive of the project.

Retired former miner Jim Clarke, aged 81, used to work at Rossington Colliery, and has suffered from cancer himself.

He said: “I think it’s a wonderful idea. Rossington is not a bad village, but there is definitely a problem with people’s lungs. Old miners here seem to be going left right and centre.

"We used to have smoking chimneys and smog and fog,” he added.

Fellow resident Malcolm Mitchell, a retired former nurse, agreed that many people in Rossingon had lung problems. “I think doing this is a good thing,” he said.

Another resident, Sharon James, said: “I know a lot of people in Rossington who have died of cancer recently. I smoke, and would definitely be up for using this.”

Barbara Cadman added: “I think it’s a very good idea.”

> Covid-19 secure mobile scanning trucks will move around Doncaster on a three-monthly basis and be parked at designated places:

South – including towns and villages, such as Rossington and Mexborough from March 2021 to mid-July 2021

North – including areas such as Bentley and Carcroft from July 2021 to September 2021

East – covering towns and villages, such as Thorne and Hatfield from October 2021 to December 2021

Central – including areas such as Intake and Cantley from December 2021 to March 2022.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.

Doncaster Lung Health Check programme. Dr Jason Page with the scanner