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Bowel Screening

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what progress was made on a bowel screening programme at the workshop on 20 June 2006; (103440)

(2) what steps he has taken arising from the workshop on 20 June 2006 on a bowel screening programme;

(3) what progress has been made on introducing a bowel screening programme in the Province;

(4) what steps have been taken to increase the capacity and skills of NHS staff in Northern Ireland in relation to bowel cancer screening.

The UK National Screening Committee has considered the case for bowel screening and recommended that a population programme should be introduced. I would wish to see such a programme introduced in Northern Ireland. However, before a programme could be implemented in Northern Ireland, detailed planning is required in order that the introduction of bowel screening does not adversely impact on services for those patients with symptomatic bowel disease. In addition, infrastructure development and capacity building is required so that the necessary resources, people and skills are in place to ensure a quality service.

In preparation of this, the workshop on bowel cancer held on 20 June considered the current capacity and pressure on the symptomatic bowel service. It identified the need for expansion of endoscopy training and capacity, and the introduction of quality standards in line with those applied in England. My Department has allocated resources to support these developments and is currently working with the relevant health professionals to address these issues and thereby enhance the capacity of the symptomatic service.

A bowel cancer screening conference, jointly organised by Action Cancer and my Department, was held on 9 October 2006. It provided learning from the experiences of introducing bowel cancer screening in England and Scotland, which will be taken into account for the introduction of bowel screening here. These and other initiatives will leave Northern Ireland in a much better position to introduce bowel cancer screening in 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to increase training provision for colonoscopists in the Province. (103465)

The Department meets identified training needs for endoscopy nursing staff, through commissioned training places at Queen’s University Belfast. Training provision has increased slightly from 2005, when the curriculum was reviewed to include additional information on decontamination.

The Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency has introduced a three-day colonoscopy course for junior doctors training in Gastroenterology and Colorectal Surgery.