A report in The Guardian this week(June 21, 2017) suggests that NHS cost cutting measures being considered in the Cheshire area include a potential reduction of 25% in the number of endoscopies.
It is not clear what criteria might be used to achieve this reduction; endoscopy is used to diagnose a wide range of conditions. However it is a vital tool in the early detection of bowel cancer and Beating Bowel Cancer has consistently raised concerns that capacity is already limited: the prospect of further constraints on endoscopy as it pertains to the diagnosis of bowel cancer and associated pre-cancerous conditions is therefore alarming.
While campaigning for the bowel cancer screening age in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be reduced from 60 to 50 to bring it into line with Scotland, Beating Bowel Cancer has nevertheless welcomed the introduction of the NHS bowel scope screening test, which is in process of being rolled out to all men and women in England aged 55.
Any reversal in this initiative, or reduction in endoscopy capacity for the detection of cancer and pre-cancerous conditions, would be at odds with NHS England’s Cancer Strategy, which includes earlier diagnosis as one of six key measures aimed at saving 30,000 lives a year by 2020.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and the second biggest killer, claiming a life every 30 minutes. Around 110 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every day – that’s one every fifteen minutes.
If diagnosed at an early stage 97% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated but this drops to just 7% if diagnosed at a late stage[i]. Early stage cases are far more likely to be diagnosed through screening than via the GP or A & E.
Early detection not only saves lives – it saves money too, with the cost of treating a patient diagnosed at early stage roughly a quarter of that associated with a late stage diagnosis.
[i] Key Facts about Bowel Cancer. Cancer Research UK Cancer Stats: Accessed online June 2017: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/survival#heading-Three