The ‘Involving Communities Increasing Uptake’ conference looked at regional initiatives to boost participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, which currently offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74 (in England) and 50-74 (in Scotland). Bowel screening can play a crucial role in early cancer diagnosis, however only 58% of people (in England/Scotland) who are invited do it nationally, with lower rates in Wales and Northern Ireland, and in some areas uptake is below 40%.
The event was jointly organised by Beating Bowel Cancer, Lancashire Bowel Screening Team, CRUK and Public Health Lancashire and heard from a range of speakers including cancer charities, GPs and bowel screening specialists, who have taken on the challenge of increasing bowel screening in their areas. A wide range of people gathered together to explore together ways of increasing bowel screening uptake.
This included Beating Bowel Cancer’s ‘Community Bowel Screening Volunteers Project’ that trains volunteers to go in to GP practices and call people who have not taken up the chance to get involved in bowel screening, encouraging them to do so and ordering a new kit for them if they give consent . This project has exceeded targets, with an average 6.5% increase in bowel screening in participating practices and almost 1000 people sent a new screening test following conversations with a volunteer.
Jonny Hirst, the project manager and regional manager (North West) for Beating Bowel Cancer said: “This event was a great chance to share with a wider range of people the way that this project and others like it are already saving lives. Now that we can prove it’s working, we want to find partners who will support the work to begin in new areas, so that the impact of the work can multiply and more lives can be saved.”
The event also showcased the work of the Lancashire Bowel Screening Team’s ‘Call for a Kit Clinic’. In this project people are invited to a 15 minute consultation in their GP practice to talk about the importance of bowel screening and to order a new kit for them if they give consent.
Shahida Hanif, Health Promotion Specialist at Lancashire Bowel Screening Team said: “It was a brilliant event showcasing some excellent projects that have had some great outcomes in engaging with local communities and improving uptake and participation in the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.”
A range of other community based projects, as well as initiatives spearheaded by GPs themselves, were also highlighted.
Interim chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer Judith Brodie said: “It was great to be at this event and hear from these projects in the North West which are working to increase screening rates across the region.
“This is extremely important as early detection and treatment of bowel cancer is key. If diagnosed at Stage 1, 97% of people survive for 5 years or more. However, if diagnosed at stage 4, that falls to just 7%.
“Screening and early detection will save lives, which is why we have also been campaigning this year for bowel cancer screening to start at the age of 50 rather than 60 across the UK (it is already 50 in Scotland).”