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Bowel Scope Screening at 55 years

Changes to the National NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme


Bowel scope screening has been decommissioned


Following the outcome of a UK National Screening Committee submission to the Secretary of State, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) will be permanently discontinuing Bowel Scope as part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. 


This decision has been made within the context of prioritisation and risk-based improvement to the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme to extend the home testing programme to include 50-59 year olds from 01 April 2021. Once the age extension is fully complete, FIT kits will cover the ages of 50 - 74.

In making this decision, NHSEI considered the following 


• The introduction of FIT testing into the programme in 2019 which has enabled more sensitive testing; 


• Implementation of age extension into the programme over the next four years which aims to reduce inequities in service provisions that were created by Bowel Scope roll out to cover only the population of 60% of GP practices, across England; 


• The UKNSC recommendation to consider decommission Bowel Scope when FIT was available to 55-year-olds. 


People whose bowel scope screening appointment was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be offered a FIT home testing kit from April 2021. All patients were informed by letter in January 2021


Click here to see patient letter



Questions and Answers 


What is bowel scope screening? 


People aged between 55 and 60 were invited for a once-only bowel scope screen- a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end to look inside the lower part of the large bowel for any polyps or cancers. People who are over 55 but have not attended for bowel scope could self-refer up to the time they are invited to receive the FIT home testing kit. 


While bowel scope screening was previously rolled out to people registered with around 60% of GP practices across the country the country, activity had already reduced prior to COVID-19 due to the increase in demand on bowel screening services following the introduction of the more sensitive and easier to use FIT kit. 


During the pandemic, bowel scope screening has stopped as the NHS prioritises available capacity for screening patients who need further tests following their bowel cancer screening FIT test result. 

Why was the decision taken to decommission bowel scope? 


There are a range of reasons, in discussion with experts and stakeholders, that went into the decision including: 


• Bowel scope screening was available in certain parts of the country creating variation in service delivery and people taking up the offer of the test was lower than expected. 


• To continue to ensure that people that need diagnostic tests following a positive FIT test are received in a timely way and, following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, continuing to focus on fully restoring the home testing programme. 

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