The situation in NHS England is a matter of grave concern. See this from the Guardian yesterday:

Cancer Research UK is concerned that as many as 1,100 people a year in England with bowel cancer are not being picked up because the NHS there used a higher threshold than Scotland in screening for the disease using the faecal immunochemical test.

In Scotland those whose testing shows they have 80 micrograms of haemoglobin per gram of faeces are referred to have a colonoscopy to determine if they have bowel cancer.Advertisement

In contrast, in England only those with 120 micrograms go on to have further investigation. That is despite research showing that the lower the threshold, the more cases are detected and thus lives are saved.

The charity said: “This is where patients are missing out in potentially life-saving early diagnoses, largely due to a lack of specialist staff.”

It said that if the NHS in England used the same lower threshold for deciding on referrals then it would undertake 2,000 more endoscopies a month but would detect 1,100 more cases a year.

Dr Lisa Wilde, the director of research and external affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We know that the biggest constraint to increasing the sensitivity of England’s bowel cancer screening test is a lack of NHS workforce. Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer but it doesn’t need to be: it is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.”

Bowel cancer screening starts at 50 in Scotland. It begins at 55 in England, though the NHS has pledged to reduce it to 50 at some point in the future.