To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services how many faecal occult blood tests are carried out within the National Health Service each year; what proportion of these tests prove positive; and what proportion of the positive tests are referred for colonoscopy investigation.
I regret that this information is not held centrally. In faecal occult blood tests, samples of a patient's stool are examined: if blood is present this may indicate cold-rectal cancer, and the patient would be referred for further investigation, for example, by colonoscopy. Trials are in progress in Nottingham and abroad in which the faecal occult blood test is used as a method of screening for colo-rectal cancer. On current evidence the rates of false positive results still seem too high for this method to be appropriate for a mass screening programme.