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Bowel screening suffering from staff shortages - charity

Tuesday January 28th, 2020

Bowel cancer screening in England is suffering because of shortages of diagnostic staff, campaigners say today.

As a result England has chosen a less effective threshold than Scotland for referral for investigation, Cancer Research UK said.

It linked the decision to limit referrals to a 10% vacancy rate in diagnostic posts.

The charity said another 1,100 cases of bowel cancer would be diagnosed annually and potentially in early stages if England used the Scottish criteria. It would require an extra 2,000 colonoscopies a month.

In England a patient is referred for further tests if 120 micrograms of haemoglobin are found per gram of sample. In Scotland the threshold for referral is 80 micrograms.

Gastroenterologist Dr Ed Seward, clinical adviser to Cancer Research UK, said: “When we treat bowel cancer patients who were diagnosed at an early stage, we have curative treatments we can offer, including surgery.

"It can be devastating to patients and their families when the disease is caught at a late stage, which is why the bowel screening programme is so important – finding cancers when they haven’t caused symptoms at all."

Sara Hiom, from the charity, added: “The UK’s bowel cancer screening programme is very effective at detecting cancer early. But we’re concerned that NHS staff shortages are having a direct impact on the ability to diagnose more patients at an early stage – something that the Government committed to doing last year. People shouldn’t be slipping through the net.

“Improvements to cancer screening in the UK need to be made quickly and safely to ensure the NHS can diagnose people earlier. Even though NHS staff on the ground are doing everything they can to diagnose people early, the Government needs to back them up with significant investment to train and recruit more staff so that doctors, nurses and other specialists can diagnose more people at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.”

Tags: Cancer | Gastroenterology | NHS | UK News

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