People with a history of smoking and over the age of 55 are to be invited to a new lung health check after Thurrock was picked to be part of an NHS pilot programme.

The health checks have been made possible through extra investment from NHS England which is for improving the early detection of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

Thurrock’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said people registered with a GP and aged between 55 and 74 will be invited to a series of tests that will include a lung health check and a lung cancer risk assessment.

Anyone found to be at high risk will undertake a low dose CT scan and if lung cancer is suspected they will be referred to a rapid access lung clinic. If signs of other diseases are found they will be referred to their GP.

A spokesman for the CCG said: “Thurrock CCG and Luton CCG were identified by NHS England as being outliers in terms of numbers of smokers, the incidence of lung cancer, other respiratory disease and high mortality rates in the East of England.

“Along with thirteen other CCGs in England, Thurrock CCG has received East of England Cancer Alliance Transformation funding for this programme of work which will be evaluated nationally for potential roll out across the country.

“We are working in partnership with Public Health, clinicians both in hospitals and in primary care, community respiratory, and Healthwatch in Thurrock and Luton, to develop a programme that will support the targeted lung health checks.”

Thurrock is one of just 14 regions across the UK to receive extra investment from NHS England. The borough was picked alongside Luton after they were found to have the highest lung cancer mortality rates in all of the East of England.

Much of this is said to be down to the prevalence of smoking. Data released as part of the World No Tobacco Day, found that an estimated 17.7 per cent of those over 18 are smokers and the number intending to quit is less than half the national average.

Each year there is approximately 100 new cases of lung cancer.

The spokesman for the CCG acknowledged the challenge of encouraging people to attend the checks but stressed the importance.

They said: “We are building in ways to follow up with people and ensure they attend their lung health check. It’s really important that people come along and we will emphasise the benefits of early diagnosis of lung disease, including cancer, as outcomes are much better for those who are identified at an earlier stage.

“All invited participants who currently smoke will be offered smoking cessation support.”