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Petition to
Central Government

Why this petition matters

Started by Lynn Hargreaves

Please read this and support this petition to the Government.

Two years ago I had a bowel scope. A pre-cancerous polyp was removed and I am eternally grateful. Because of future risk I was told that I would need to have an annual scope. Last year I received a letter telling me that I wouldn’t need to have the follow up scope until three years after the first. I now doubt that I will be followed up at all. How can that be right? Please read on.

In January 2021 NHS England began to inform people that one of the bowel screening tests – bowel scope – will no longer be a part of the bowel screening programme in England.

The test, which uses a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light at the end of it to look inside the lower part of the bowel, aims to find early-stage cancers that aren’t yet causing any symptoms. In trials the test prevented more than half of the potential bowel cancers from developing in the bowel and reduced the risk of dying from these cancers by two thirds in people who were screened.

Based on the evidence, bowel scope implementation began in England in 2013, with a plan to offer it as a one-off test to men and women aged 55 years. The test was never introduced in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

At the time, NHS England said the roll out wouldn’t be immediate – it was estimated that it would take at least 3 years before the test would be offered to everyone eligible because of a shortage of trained staff – endoscopists – to carry out the test.

But 7 years after roll out began in England, bowel scope was still not being offered to everyone. And it’s now been removed from the roster altogether.

What happened to bowel scope?
Roll out of bowel scope had a number of challenges, with one of the biggest being the availability of staff to do the bowel scope test. Health Education England developed a clinical endoscopist programme to help train more staff to do bowel scope, but unfortunately this was still not enough to meet the full workforce need.

More recently, endoscopy services have been put under even more pressure by the introduction of a new test into the bowel screening programme – FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) – and services looked at ways to manage the demand. Some centres decided then not to do bowel scopes.

And then COVID-19 hit. The pandemic caused further disruption to the delivery of endoscopy services for both screening and symptomatic referrals. Bowel scope was often at the bottom of the list when it came to getting services back up and running and working through the significant backlog of patients that had built up.

“It’s disappointing that bowel scope screening is being formally stopped now, but we understand why this decision has been made. Ongoing staff shortages have meant that bowel scope never reached its full potential and the pressure of COVID-19 on the health system was the final straw.
– Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK’s head of early diagnosis”  

It has to be said that no-one likes the colonoscopy but it sees pre-cancerous or early cancerous polyps and can take them out immediately.  Whilst the FIT test has been improved it can’t pick up all tumours because they don’t always bleed or do so intermittently. They are in fact a test for blood not for cancer. We should have been moving towards colonoscopies from at least the age of 50 like many other countries do. Our cancer outcomes are already poor, now more people will die unnecessarily.

Whilst the National Screening Committee says it makes decisions about the types of screening based on statistics, yet again COVID appears to be the biggest player in this decision making process.

The statistical success of the scope screening has saved many lives and should be brought back.






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