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Practice dilemma: Bowel cancer

Should your practice be following up patients who miss bowel cancer screening? Our legal expert advises

If your practice is informed that a patient hasn't sent the testing kit back, it might not mean that they no longer wish to participate in the screening programme.

You may need to consider why the patient has not returned their kit – it may be something as simple as a change of address or could represent patient anxiety or misunderstanding. You could face criticism at a later stage if a patient develops bowel cancer and no steps were taken to encourage the patient to return their testing kit.

You should consider contacting the patient to discuss the screening programme or offer them an appointment to do so. Document any steps you take, or discussions with the patient, fully in the medical records. This will make it clear that the patient has made an informed decision on whether or not to participate in the screening programme.

Dr Rachel Birch is a medicolegal adviser at the Medical Protection Society


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