Innovative Tayside testing programme wins global award 

An innovative testing scheme piloted in Tayside to help enhance the early detection of bowel cancer has been recognised at a global healthcare awards. 

The team from NHS Tayside’s Blood Sciences and Gastroenterology department, alongside Primary Care colleagues, won the Global Distinction UNIVANTS of Healthcare award for introducing a test to investigate patients visiting their GP with new bowel symptoms. 

Until the testing pathway was put in place, patients who visited their GP with bowel symptoms would be sent for a colonoscopy – an internal diagnostic procedure involving a miniature camera – which for the majority will prove normal. 

Patients now receive a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) which accurately predicts which patients are extremely unlikely to have serious bowel disease. The test uses a faeces sample to test for the presence of blood which can be a sign of cancer or bowel disease. If blood is undetectable, this could rule out the need for a colonoscopy for many patients and speed up the investigation of those that do. 

The test, which is available at all GP practices in Tayside, helps speed up the diagnosis of bowel cancer and serious bowel disease, as well as reducing unnecessary and often invasive further testing. 

Since the new testing pathway was introduced in Tayside in 2015, the number of patients referred for a colonoscopy in Tayside has fallen by 15%, which works out at around 1400 patients per year.

The pioneering testing scheme has now been rolled out in all health Boards across Scotland.  

Consultant Clinical Scientist Judith Strachan said, “FIT testing in Tayside has revolutionised the investigation of local patients with bowel symptoms and I am delighted and very proud that this innovative and collaborative project involving laboratory, primary and secondary care has been internationally recognised.”

The UNIVANTS of Healthcare Excellence Programme is a prestigious award programme which was set up to inspire and celebrate healthcare excellence. It recognises teams who collaborate across disciplines and transform healthcare delivery, and ultimately patient lives.