The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme for 60-69 year olds was rolled out between July 2006 and December 2010, in which time over 7,000 cancers were detected. The programme has been extended to men and women aged up to 74 and those over 74 can self-refer for screening every two years if they wish. Bowel Scope Screening (BSS), an additional one-off examination for men and women aged 55, is currently being rolled out across the country.
Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival. The UK National Screening Committee, which advises ministers and the NHS about all aspects of population screening, recommended faecal occult blood testing should be extended to those aged 50 to 74. The government has received Parliamentary Questions on this issue, and a related online petition has been signed by more than 274,000 people. I hope the government considers this carefully.
Investment in local screening programmes can make a real difference to the nation’s health. However, the government has pushed ahead with short-sighted cuts to public health budgets without considering the impact on people’s health. This is a false economy and I believe the NHS and social care sector must be provided with the funding that is desperately needed especially to detect illnesses sooner.
We need to do more together to spread the message that screening saves lives and encourage everyone called for screening to take up the life-saving opportunity.