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GP invitations to bowel cancer screening ‘increases uptake by 40,000’



Practices sending headed letters inviting patients for bowel cancer screening can increase uptake and enhance cancer detection, a study has found.

The research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that nearly 40,000 extra people would be screened if practice invites were sent out nationally.

This could enable an additional 61 people with cancer and 165 people with intermediate or high risk polyps to be identified and referred for treatment.

Researchers concluded that GP practice names should be added to invitations given out by the NHS bowel screening programme, given the ‘high level of agreement by GPs to endorse it’ and the increased screening uptake.

It comes after it was found in an audit last year that survival rates of bowel cancer could be improved if more people took up the offer of screening.

Researchers believe that a ‘lack of GP involvement could be a barrier’ for screening uptake, with one patient involved in the study saying: ‘if the letter had come from my GP, I would have taken it more seriously.’

The new style of invitations would require practices to agree to their name being put on the screening letter and researchers believe that this approach means there is ‘no effort required from primary care other than an agreement to have their practice name on a letter’.

It concluded: ’Given the exceptionally high level of agreement by general practices to endorse the bowel cancer screening programme (BCSP), the small one-off cost to modify the standard invitation letter, and the overall increase in uptake, we suggest that the BCSP consider adding GP endorsement to the screening invitation letter.’

Overall, the headed invitations only increased uptake by 0.7%, but the researchers calculated that this would still result in 39,766 additional people being screened if the system was put in place nationally.