1,100 bowel disease cases spotted late
AS MANY as 1,100 cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed late in England each year due to NHS staff shortages, experts claim.
Screening tests were made to be less sensitive so that staff have fewer follow-up patients, say Cancer Research UK analysts.
Since 2018, the NHS in England has sent bowel cancer screening tests through the post every two years to those aged 50 to 74.
Medics look for high levels of haemoglobin, a protein in blood, in stool samples. English patients are called in if there is more than 120 micrograms of haemoglobin per gram of sample. But in Scotland, people are called in if there is more than 80 micrograms – making it more likely that they will be called in for further tests such as colonoscopies.
Cancer Research UK says English officials set the bar higher because they do not have enough staff to process the extra tests. If they used the same thresholds as in Scotland, 24,000 more people would be called in for further tests each year in England.
Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK said there should be ‘significant investment’ to fill vacancies, adding: ‘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.’ About 16,300 people die from bowel cancer in the UK each year.