Diagnosing bowel cancer early: right test, right time
Our Right test, Right time campaign aims to highlight the issues and challenges facing endoscopy services across the UK.
Endoscopy tests, such as a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, are key diagnostic tests for bowel cancer. They can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease, when it is more treatable, as well as prevent cancer through the removal of polyps during the test.
What are the issues?
- Demand for endoscopy services is set to double over the next five years. Yet there is a serious lack of capacity within endoscopy units to meet this demand. This is having an impact on waiting times. Many people across the UK are waiting too long between being referred and having their test. Without adequate capacity to meet this demand, patients will be kept waiting for crucial diagnostic tests.
- The quality of endoscopy service varies across the UK. Many units do not meet the quality standards set out by the Joint Advisory Group for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (JAG). This means that some patients are being referred to units that are not up to standard and whose quality cannot be assured. With the added pressures that the expected increase in demand for diagnostic testing will bring, ensuring services continue to be of the highest quality is vital to stop people from dying.
What are we calling for?
We’re calling for greater investment in endoscopy services to:
- Improve capacity of endoscopy units by increasing the number of trained and certified staff to carry out procedures
- Reduce waiting times for patients
- Help bring all units up to JAG accreditation standards
What have we achieved so far?
- A change in the new GP referral guidelines for suspected cancer so GPs can refer patients at lower levels of risk than applied with the previous referral criteria. This means patients with persistent 'low risk' symptoms can be assessed more quickly and improve the timeliness of their diagnosis.
- A focus on improving diagnostic capacity in the new cancer strategy.
- A diagnostics fund – the Government has committed £300 million a year by 2020 to improve access to diagnostics, including 200 additional staff to carry out endoscopy procedures.