NHS launches tool to improve bowel cancer screening for people with sight loss

Thousands of people with sight loss in England will find it easier to participate in life-saving bowel cancer screening thanks to a new specially designed NHS tool.

People who are blind or partially sighted will be offered a specially designed tool to support them complete faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit, which can detect signs of bowel cancer.

The FIT aid tool is an adaptation which makes the standard FIT test more accessible with a channel that enables the sample to be guided into the bottle, as well as a stand that holds FIT tube steady to help those with manual dexterity issues. It includes options for braille instructions, an audio CD or a link to audio and video instructions.

NHS England worked closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Thomas Pocklington Trust who helped test the design and instructions with a cohort of people with sight loss, alongside the FIT kit supplier Mast Group Ltd.

During the six-month pilot, around 500 people with sight loss will be sent the FIT aid tool to help them complete the test. If successful, it may be rolled out initially to thousands more people to help improve the accessibility and uptake of bowel cancer screening, whilst reducing healthcare inequalities.

Under the NHS cancer screening programme, FIT kits are posted to people when they are eligible and completed at home by putting a poo sample in a small tube and returning it by post to the NHS for testing. Since April 2019, when the NHS started using FIT kits, national uptake has increased from 59.2% to 67.8%, enabling more cancers to be detected early.

Data shows the number of NHS checks for bowel and other cancers have topped three million in a year for the first time – more than doubling in the last decade. Early detection of bowel cancer, the third most common type of cancer in England, can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Steve Russell, National Director for Vaccinations and Screening at NHS England said: “This  tool will enable more people with accessibility issues to complete their FIT kits and ensure we continue to diagnose cancers earlier when it is easier to treat them – potentially saving thousands of lives.

“Our partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Thomas Pocklington Trust, and Mast has been instrumental in developing this tool and is a good example of how the health service is committed to tackling health inequalities for the benefit of all patients”.

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