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Gold, incentives and meh

Setback for bowel cancer screening

The national bowel cancer screening programme is set to become the latest casualty of the NHS funding crisis, experts have warned.

Professor Tony Morris, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology, said the programme was on hold because funds had not been released.

'It's supposed to start on 1 April but the nurse screeners who would be seeing patients have not even been appointed yet,' he said.

The BSG warned it was likely the programme would now be limited to the initial English pilot site in Coventry, rather than the proposed five rollout sites.

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, told Pulse: 'The Government has so far failed to respond to requests for confirm- ation that its much-heralded bowel cancer screening programme will go ahead. This is completely unacceptable.'

News of the delays came as research cast doubt on whether colonoscopy services were sufficiently prepared to support a screening programme.

A survey in Wales found only 19 per cent of colonoscopists met the required standard for screening.

Dr Jeffrey Featherstone, a GP in Liverpool who runs an endoscopy clinic in his own practice, said: 'I don't think there's a unit in the UK that's ready. There is no spare capacity.'

The Department of Health told Pulse the programme would still begin in April, but could not confirm whether all five sites would be involved.

'Budgets for 2006/7 are currently being finalised,' the department said.

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