Information on the programme, including commissioning, quality assurance, education and training.
Public information about bowel cancer screening is available on the NHS website. Members of the public can call the bowel cancer screening helpline on the Freephone number 0800 707 60 60.
It is an individual’s choice whether or not to have screening. Individuals can opt out if they do not want to receive screening invitations.
Public Health England (PHE) is committed to reducing inequalities and variation in participation to help make sure everyone has fair and equal access to screening services.
PHE has also published information about patient confidentiality in population screening programmes.
Bowel cancer screening is offered every 2 years to men and women aged 60 to 74. People older than this can ask for a screening kit every 2 years by calling the Freephone number 0800 707 60 60.
An additional one-off test called bowel scope screening is being introduced in England for men and women at the age of 55.
In August 2018, ministers agreed that in the future bowel cancer screening in England will start at the age of 50. PHE and the NHS are looking at how this can be achieved.
Condition screened for
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where it starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. The NHS website has more information, including:
- symptoms of bowel cancer
- causes of bowel cancer
- treatment for bowel cancer
Guaiac fecal occult blood test
People eligible for bowel cancer screening get an invitation letter, along with an information leaflet explaining screening and its possible benefits and risks.
About a week later, the programme sends a guaiac fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) kit with instructions on how to use it at home. Results are sent out 2 weeks after the laboratory receives the completed kit.
The screening programme offers individuals with an abnormal screening result a colonoscopy.
The quality assurance guidelines for colonoscopy provide guidance on standards and performance indicators in colonoscopy.
Faecal immunochemical test
A new kit called the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is being introduced in England from late 2018. It will eventually replace the gFOBT test.
Bowel scope test
Bowel scope screening (also called a flexible sigmoidoscopy or ‘flexisig’) is an additional test for people aged 55.
Bowel scope screening is being introduced by the NHS, but is not yet available everywhere. Bowel scope standard operating procedures offer guidance for providers of bowel scope screening.
Bowel cancer screening is one of 11 NHS national population screening programmes available in England.
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) makes recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries on all aspects of population screening. It ensures that screening provides more benefit than harm, at a reasonable cost to the NHS.
PHE collects routine data to monitor the uptake of bowel cancer screening.
Requests for screening data and research
All requests for screening data need to be approved by the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme Research Advisory Committee.
PHE also has terms of reference for NHS population screening programme research advisory committees.
The role of the screening quality assurance service is to:
- assess the quality of local screening programmes
- monitor compliance with standards
- support services with improving quality
- undertake regional level quality assurance visits
The programme specific operating model for quality assurance of the bowel cancer screening programme should be read in conjunction with the operating model for PHE screening quality assurance service: 2015/16 to 2017/18 and the relevant programme standards.
Workforce – education and training
Education and training resources are available for healthcare professionals working in bowel cancer screening.
There are also more general resources to support screening professionals in their initial training and continuing professional development (CPD).
Keep up to date
Visit the Public Health England (PHE) screening blog to keep up to date with what is new in the programme, including the latest guidance and good practice. You can register to receive blog updates direct to your inbox.
PHE Screening also has its own Twitter account, which provides information and news on all national screening programmes.
Contact the screening team
NHS population screening helpdesk
133-155 Waterloo Road
Helpdesk phone number 020 3682 0890
The helpdesk is not for media enquiries and does not have access to screening results. For queries about results, contact your GP or local screening service. Order screening leaflets at www.gov.uk/phe/screening-leaflets.