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Colorectal Cancer: Screening

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment she has made of the bowel cancer screening programme; in what areas screening is being carried out; when she expects preliminary results to be available from the programme; and if she will make a statement; (121002)

(2) how many (a) men and (b) women aged 60 to 69 years have been screened for bowel cancer (i) at home and (ii) in the NHS since April 2006, broken down by Government region; and if she will make a statement.

Roll out of the national health service Bowel Cancer Screening Programme began in April 2006, as stated in the Health White Paper “Our health, our care, our say: a new direction for community services”. The first invitations were sent out in July 2006. The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is one of the first national bowel screening programmes in the world, and is the first cancer screening programme in England to invite men as well as women.

Five hubs across England will invite men and women to participate in the screening programme, send out the faecal occult blood (FOB) testing kits, analyse the returned kits and send results out. Ninety to 100 local screening centres will provide endoscopy services for the 2 per cent. of men and women who have a positive FOB test result.

The five programme hubs have been confirmed as Rugby (West Midlands and the North West), Guildford (Southern), St. Marks (London), Gateshead (North East) and Nottingham (Eastern). All five hubs will be operational by the end of March 2007.

In addition, the first eight local screening centres have now begun operations. These are: Wolverhampton, Norwich, South Devon, Liverpool, St. Marks London, St. George’s London, Gloucestershire and Bolton. The other six sites due to become local screening centres in wave 1 of the programme (2006-07) will be confirmed as soon as possible, when they have satisfied quality and capacity criteria.

Strategic health authorities (SHAs) were invited to bid for their local endoscopy units to become local screening centres as part of wave 2 of the programme in 2007-08 on 25 January 2007. It is up to SHAs to decide where local screening centres should be located for the benefit of their own populations.

The table shows the activity of the programme from July 2006 to 9 February 2007, broken down by gender and SHA. The table shows the number of testing kits sent out, the number of people who have completed the kits in their own homes and returned them to the laboratory, and the number of positive results. People with a positive result have received an appointment to discuss colonoscopy with a screening nurse at a local screening centre in a hospital-based setting, and have undergone their colonoscopies if appropriate. Further information, such as the number of cancers detected, will be made available as the programme progresses.

Strategic health authority

Invitations sent

Returned kits

Positive results

Males

North West

8,022

2,493

26

West Midlands

9,190

3,551

23

East of England

10,110

5,029

38

London

7,598

1,759

9

South West

6,741

2,623

12

Total

41,661

15,455

108

Females

North West

8,300

2,586

10

West Midlands

9,527

3,672

10

East of England

10,083

5,406

13

London

7,645

2,007

8

South West

6,924

2,966

6

Total

42,479

16,637

47

Total

84,140

32,092

155

As testing kits are being sent out continuously, and there is a time period between people receiving and completing the kits, the figures above do not show the true level of uptake. We are confident that the 60 per cent. uptake rate demonstrated in the research and the pilot site will be achieved by the programme.

The bowel cancer screening programme is an ambitious project. When fully implemented by December 2009, 2 million men and women will be screened and around 3,000 bowel cancers detected every year. We are committed to implementing this important programme.