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Bowel screening green light

The Department of Health has at last secured the funding for the bowel cancer screening programme and will begin rolling it out nationally this summer.

Experts had feared the programme was in jeopardy because the Government had not committed funding for the planned start date of April.

But the department announced that funding for the first year of the screening programme would be made available to the National Screening Team, with Wolverhampton chosen as the first site.

Sir Muir Gray, director of the National Screening Committee, said the programme would get under way in June or July.

He admitted the NHS financial problems were partly to blame for the delay but said he was happier to wait until 'conditions were right for launch'.

He said: 'It will start three months later than planned because of recent events. I'm very cautious about rushing things in. It's not so much the money but people's attention has been elsewhere.'

Professor Tony Morris, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology and director of the National Endoscopy Training Centre, said: 'We are pleased it's going ahead although it's going to be a bit later than planned.

'They haven't officially announced who's going to be the first sites yet. They are starting off slow but that's not unreasonable. It's better to get it right, but there will have to be some rapid acceleration.'

The department confirmed the programme will be fully rolled out by 2009.

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