A Facebook campaign by NHS Digital led to a 13% increase in the number of women in Stoke-on-Trent who a attended breast cancer screening for the first time over a four-year period. 

The local initiative involved posting screening information in community groups on the social media site, to help give women the confidence to book an appointment.

Women could also communicate with health practitioners via Facebook to ask questions about the screening process.

In the last financial year, 7,938 women in Stoke-on-Trent either didn’t attend their breast screening appointment or opted out of going – meaning around 65 cases of potential breast cancer were not detected.

After the project was introduced in September 2017, attendance data for first-time appointments at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service showed an increased by an average of 12.9 per cent between three-year screening cycles, from 2014 to 2018.

Gina Newman, health improvement practitioner at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service, said: “This is a fantastic idea and the community aspect of the group is so powerful that we now have 1,138 followers.

“We have seen an increase in the number of ladies who have booked and attended their appointments, who might not have done otherwise. It’s great to see the members supporting one another through their own journeys and sharing the page further with their family and friends.”

The project is part of NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme.

Commissioned by NHS England, the programme aims to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone.

Twenty digital inclusion projects are being run across the country in partnership with the charity Good Things Foundation to test new ways to help people access digital tools to improve their health.

Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer at NHS England, said: “The Stoke project is an example of how digital channels can be used to communicate with patients, providing local advice and answer key concerns.

“This work is part of the NHS’s wider commitment to digitally transform the way we work with all of our patients, improving the information we provide and empowering the public to take charge of their own health and care.”

Other organisations have been turning to digital to encourage women to check for breast cancer symptoms.

Charity Breast Cancer Care has launched a virtual tool on Amazon’s Alexa that shares information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, in a bid to give women more confidence to check for the disease.