Bowel cancer screening: programme overview
Read an overview of the NHS bowel cancer screening programme (BCSP), and learn how to contact the programme.
Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.
The bowel cancer screening programme (BCSP) is an NHS population screening programme.
No screening test is 100% accurate, there will always be some false positive and false negative results.
The NHS BCSP offers screening every 2 years to all men and women aged 60 to 74.
NHS Choices has more information about bowel cancer, including:
- an introduction to the disease
- mortality rates
Evidence and recommendations
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) assesses evidence and makes recommendations for population screening programmes to the 4 UK governments.
In April 2011 the UK NSC recommended the addition of bowel scope screening alongside the existing faecal occult blood test.
The NHS bowel cancer screening research committee works to:
- ensure the feasibility of scientific research arising from the screening programme
- encourage collaboration between researchers
- avoid unnecessary duplication of research
People eligible for screening receive an invitation letter explaining the programme, along with an information leaflet explaining the benefits and risks of bowel cancer screening.
About a week later, the programme should send a faecal occult blood sampling kit. The kit includes simple instructions for:
- completing sampling at home
- sending the samples to the laboratory
The sample is then processed and the results sent to the individual within 2 weeks.
Healthcare professionals should offer patients with an abnormal screening result a colonoscopy. This procedure is an investigation that involves looking directly at the lining of the large bowel.
The quality assurance guidelines for colonoscopy explain how to complete the procedure.
If the procedure finds polyps, a wire loop passed down the colonoscope tube can remove them.
This process is painless on most occasions and these tissue samples must be tested for any abnormal cells that may be cancerous.
Bowel scope screening
The programme is also rolling out bowel scope screening to all men and women in England aged 55.
Healthcare professionals should explain to people that this new test is not yet available everywhere across the country. The target is for all screening centres to be operational by December 2016.
Providing prompt care
Healthcare professionals must use the BCSP professional documents to offer a consistent and competent service.
GPs are not directly involved in the delivery of the NHS BCSP but they receive a copy of the results letters sent to their patients.
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 screening quality assurance service (SQAS) generic standard operating procedures documents.
Contact the screening team
Members of the public who have questions can call the bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
You can ring this number to request a screening kit if you are 75 or over.
For other enquiries please contact:
NHS population screening helpdesk
Public Health England Zone B
Floor 2 Skipton House
80 London Road
Contact form http://legacy.screenin...
Helpdesk phone number 020 3682 0890
Please note the helpdesk is not for media enquiries.
The helpdesk and national programmes do not have access to screening results.
For information on screening results, please contact your GP or local screening service.
Parents: contact your midwife or health visitor to get your child’s results
Health professionals: contact the local screening team, screening laboratory or local child health records department.
Published: 1 January 2015
Updated: 9 August 2017
- Added link to programme specific operating model under quality assurance.
- Added bowel cancer screening helpline contact details.
- First published.