Improving uptake of bowel cancer screening (phase 1)

Status Past
Programme Bowel Cancer Programme
Partners Bowel Screening Wales

Project Lead(s)

Benji Williams

Benji Williams

(Former) Improvement Lead, Bowel Screening Wales


Bowel screening is currently offered every two years to all people resident in Wales aged 58-74 and registered with a GP. When you receive the pack in the post, you complete the test at home by taking a small sample of poo, and then post it back to the Bowel Screening Wales laboratory, where the sample is examined for tiny traces of blood that could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

High public uptake of bowel screening is one of the best ways to improve survival because screening diagnoses cancers earlier, when treatment is much more effective. Only 8% of people diagnosed with cancer through the screening programme have late stage (stage 4) disease, compared to 22% diagnosed by the symptomatic service.

This project focused on activities to increase uptake of bowel cancer screening and reducing the inequalities in uptake that exist across our communities. This included:

  • Broadcast TV campaign - Bowel Screening Wales worked in partnership with Bowel Cancer UK to deliver a television campaign to boost uptake of the new FIT test. This saw the delivery of a bilingual marketing campaign featuring ex-Lions and Wales international rugby player Jamie Roberts, which was launched to coincide with the 2020 Six Nations rugby tournament. The campaign was unfortunately cut short owing to the COVID-19 pandemic; nonetheless, results showed a 16% increase in the number of tests returned Feb/Mar 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Really importantly, 954 replacement test kits were requested during the campaign period.
  • Non-responder support service - Bowel Screening Wales worked in partnership with primary care clusters in Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil and the Cynon Valley to pilot interventions specifically targeting non-responders. This service involved initially sending GP endorsed letters to non responders, with a follow up phone call from the Primary Care Support Officer two weeks later for those who still had not returned their test. Speaking with participants proved a valuable opportunity to inform non-responders about the benefits of participating in bowel cancer screening, answer any questions they may have about the test, and to understand any reasons they had for not taking part. The results showed an overall increase of 30% more tests returned across the clusters.

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