Bowel screening target in Scotland not being met in most deprived areas

Targets for uptake of bowel cancer screening are not being met in the most deprived areas of Scotland, new figures from Public Health Scotland reveal.

Records for the period between May 2019 and April 2021 show overall uptake has not dropped as a result of the Covid pandemic, and at 65 per cent is above the Healthcare Improvement Scotland standard of 60 per cent.

But there is a gap of 20 percentage points between uptake in the least deprived areas (73 per cent) and the most deprived (53 per cent), with the latter not meeting the standard.

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Bowel cancer screening is offered to everyone in Scotland aged 50 to 74, every two years. Uptake has increased since a new sampling process was introduced in 2017.

Uptake for bowel screening was 65 per cent.Uptake for bowel screening was 65 per cent.
Uptake for bowel screening was 65 per cent.

Scottish Labour said the figures revealed “dangerous” health inequalities.

“The statistics are clear – the poorest Scots are far less likely to be screened than the wealthiest,” said health spokesperson Jackie Baillie.

“This will only lead to greater numbers of late diagnoses among the poorest in our society and a greater number of deaths as a result.“No one’s health should be determined by their socioeconomic status.“Our NHS was founded to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare.“If action is not taken now, this inequality will only grow and lives will be lost.“Humza Yousaf must face up to this dangerous inequality and act now.”

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Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister Sue Webber labelled the figures “deeply concerning”.

She said: “Ensuring that there is a high uptake across the board in bowel screening is absolutely crucial to detecting signs of cancer at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Yet again on a matter of public health it is our most deprived communities who are suffering the most. Where you live should play no part in whether you can easily access the screening programme, but this is the case under the SNP.

“With the programme having been paused at the height of the pandemic, SNP Ministers need to urgently up their game. There is a real risk signs of bowel cancer are going undetected when only just over half of people in our most deprived communities are being screened.

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“We need to see an urgent plan outlined as to how SNP Ministers will ensure that the programme is promoted as widely as possible, particularly in those areas where uptake has been low.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Early cancer diagnosis has never been more important and remains a key clinical priority for the Scottish Government, which is why we’ve committed a further £20 million to our Detect Cancer Early (DCE) Programme over the parliamentary term.

“We also recently announced £70 million to specifically support scope based diagnostics which will focus on recovering services, support faster diagnosis of cancer and improve outcomes for patients.”

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