GPs' workload fears over bowel cancer test roll-out
The National Screening Committee is to press ahead with nationwide bowel cancer screening based on the faecal occult blood test without waiting for results from
Government-funded trials of flexible sigmoidoscopy.
National pilots of FOBt showed GP workload rose as they had to identify suitable patients from practice lists and counsel them.
But programme director Dr Muir Gray told Pulse the committee would rubber-stamp FOBt as its initial method of choice at its forthcoming December meeting. Roll-out of a national screening programme for 50- to 69-year-olds could begin as early as the summer, he said.
The announcement follows accusations earlier this month that the Government was dragging its feet over the introduction of a national campaign. Trial leaders also criticised its failure to check if screening the over-70s would be cost-effective.
Dr Gray said FOBt would 'certainly' be used as the initial method because 'that's the one we've got the evidence for'.
Roll-out would be staged and similar to the national breast cancer screening programme, he said. 'GPs will be fully informed but not fully involved.' But he admitted: 'We need to watch the workload.'
Flexible sigmoidoscopy could be added later as results of Medical Research Council trials became available but would require extensive training of nurses, Dr Gray added.
Dr Richard Stevens, chair of the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology, welcom-ed the move to roll-out screening. 'We can save lives by implementing what we know at the moment I'm sure we can tweak it when more results are available.'
But he warned GPs they would have to check through records of every 50- to 69-year old on their lists to assess suitability for testing.
Dr Stevens, a GP in Oxford, called for the new contract to recognise the extra work in counselling worried patients. 'It's got to be planned and resourced. My understanding was if something was shipped into general practice it would be recognised financially.'