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GPs urged to explain stool sampling to patients

Patients are more likely to return a stool sample if their GP provides the sampling kit, rather than a receptionist, along with information on its use, public health researchers say.

The team urged GPs to provide stool kits directly to patients, and make sure they explain clearly why it is needed and also give patients an instruction leaflet, to help improve stool collection returns.

Dr Donna Lecky and colleagues from Public Health England (PHE) interviewed 15 people who had previously submitted stool samples, and 11 who had submitted blood samples.

Patients said they trusted GPs and were motivated to comply with a request for a stool sample from GPs, and would be more likely to return it if they understood why the sample was needed and had written instructions, according to the findings presented at the annual PHE conference held at the University of Warwick this week.

On the other hand they said they were uncomfortable talking to receptionists about stool collection, citing embarrassment about other people ‘knowing you were carrying a “dirty” sample’.

One said: ‘You don’t want the whole waiting room listening.’

The researchers said practices needed to do more to encourage patients to return samples as ‘compliance with stool collection is rarely above 60%’.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of PHE’s primary care unit, said: ‘We realise that most people find collecting poo an unpleasant thing to do. However there are ways that doctors can help patients to feel confident to fill the pot in the easiest way possible.

‘Without guidance some people did actually think they had to just poo directly into the pot which adds to their distress. We want to encourage healthcare staff to take time to explain the importance of the sample in the patient’s treatment and to give our leaflet to help the collection process. Together these will help to increase the numbers of stool samples sent for testing which will help the patient’s care.’

The researchers plan to publish a full report in the British Journal of General Practice.

>>>> Clinical Newswire

Readers' comments (9)

  • Bob Hodges

    Would some kind ofg instruction sheet included with the kit not be a better use of time?

    I'm sure people are more likely to take their tablets if a GP shows them how to do it too.

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  • Of course not Bob. We are "ideally placed" to provide this sort of extra, and therefore we should so, right?

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  • Bob Hodges

    I'm so glad that I went on the Advanced Ideal Placement Course.

    I as a result, I'm at the cutting edge of being superiorly located, and placed significantly more ideally than my sub-optimally situated peers.

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  • Why not cut out the middle man and just get GPs to provide the samples after all I seem to spend most of my day sorting out other peoples sh@t.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Haven't these guys in PHE had other better priorities than researching into this cr*p ? Of course, it will be perfect if 'everything' comes from the doctor!
    As if GPs have all the time.
    I tried to hand in urine bottles to people for urine ACR simply they were not done enough . But so often it is not possible with so much going on in a consultation.
    These perfectionists need to get a f*****g grip!

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  • Azeem Majeed

    There is short animation that shows patients how to use the bowel cancer testing kit on the bowel cancer screening website. Receptionists, nurses or GPs who are asked by patients how to use the kit can direct them there. The site also contains an instruction leaflet. See

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  • Very useful link Azeem thanks!

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  • My toilet is more likely to be clean if Jeremy Hunt cleans it rather than waiting for the magical toilet fairies from crapper crapper land.

    With that in mind can I expect him to pop round first thing in the morning?

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  • I'd like Jack Vettriano to paint my extension, as he's ideally placed to do this.
    Fortunately our market system rewards those less talented than him to paint walls, leaving Jack free to paint pictures of people dancing on the beach.

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