Clinicians and health organisations across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have introduced a new approach to testing bowel problems, with the aim of speeding up diagnosis for patients.
Previously, patients with symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer were all referred, by their GP, to University of Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust (UHL) for a colon scan. This involves the use of dye and X-rays to examine the inside of the bowel. However, some patients are now being given an initial simple test that they can carry out in the privacy of their own home.
Dr Paul Danaher, GP and clinical lead for cancer at Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), explained: “Patients who have a change in their bowel habits, but have no other symptoms, will now not need to go to hospital for a test. Instead, they will be sent a kit so that they can take a small sample of their poo and send it back for testing. The test that is carried out will be looking for small amounts of blood that are not visible to the naked eye. Patients will only be called for hospital tests if blood is found.
“Patients who also have other symptoms, not just a change in bowel habits, will still be referred, by the GP, for further tests straight away and, with less demand for this test, we anticipate that these patients will be seen more quickly than before.
“This new approach is recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and is designed to avoid unnecessary tests and help to speed up diagnosis for patients who do need further investigation.”
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of death from cancer in the UK and, currently, only 15% of patients are diagnosed at the earliest stage of the illness, which is when it is easiest to treat.
Eric Charlesworth, the patient representative on the group that plans cancer service development for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, said: “This new test is less stressful, easy to complete and is very important for patient care. It is essential, however, that patients make sure they carry them out without delay. Early and prompt testing can put patients’ minds at rest as, in many cases, the results will show that they do not need referral to hospital. But for those that do need hospital tests, it’s important that this next stage is not delayed.”
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Notes to editors:
Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) plan and purchase acute and community hospital care along with mental health care. All Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland CCGs also co-commission local primary care (GP) services with NHS England. NHS England still plans and purchases pharmacies, dentists, opticians and specialised commissioning services.