May 30, 2024

Thousands of blind or partially sighted people could find it easier to take part in bowel cancer screening from home thanks to a new NHS tool that helps accessibility.

The standard test used to screen for bowel cancer requires a home stool sample in a tube, which is sent and examined for any possible signs of cancer.

The adapted faecal immunochemical test (Fit) makes the original test more accessible to blind or partially sighted people in a number of ways, including braille instructions and a channel that allows the sample to be guided into a bottle.

The tool, developed by NHS England in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Thomas Pocklington Trust, is being piloted with around 500 people with sight loss over a six-month period. If successful, it will be rolled out more widely.

Standard Fit tests are already part of the NHS cancer screening programme, and are mailed to people when they become eligible between the ages of 60 and 74. This is being extended to include people aged 50 to 59.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with an average of 42,000 cases each year. About 54% of bowel cancer cases are thought to be preventable.

Khadija Raza, policy officer at RNIB, said: “Having health checks can be a stressful time for anyone, but especially if you have sight loss and experience the added anxiety of not knowing whether the test will be fully accessible or not .

“Blind and partially sighted people have the right to manage their health with the same level of independence, privacy and dignity as sighted people.

“The Fit tool will address one of these barriers. We look forward to working closely with NHS England to ensure that all bowel screening information is provided consistently in required formats such as braille, large print and audio.”

Steve Russell, National Director for Vaccination 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 they are easier to treat – potentially saving thousands. lives.

“Our partnership with RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Mast [the standard Fit kit supplier is Mast Group Ltd] was instrumental in the development of this tool and is a great example of how the health service is committed to tackling health inequalities for the benefit of all patients.”

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