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Yorkshire Cancer Research will invest £94,000 in a new project to improve bowel cancer screening participation rates in the Bradford District and Craven area

In partnership with NHS Bradford City, Bradford Districts and Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the charity will run a trial to find out if a follow-up phone call can improve the number of people who complete their home testing kit.

People aged 60-74 are currently invited to take part in bowel cancer screening. They are sent a ‘faecal occult blood (FOB) test’ home kit every two years, which involves collecting samples of faeces and returning them in the post. The test looks for microscopic traces of blood in the faeces which can be a sign of bowel cancer. The aim of the test is to catch cancer early, which greatly increases survival rates.

Bradford City CCG has the lowest bowel cancer screening participation rate in England, with just 37% of those invited taking part. Participation rates are also very low in some areas of Bradford Districts and Airedale, Wharfedale & Craven CCGs1.

People who have not returned their test will receive a phone call from trained staff. These conversations will focus on any issues that people may have found with their screening kit, the benefits of returning the kit as well as helping to alleviate any concerns around cancer diagnosis. As the population of Bradford City is so diverse, staff are trained to converse in the patient’s preferred language.

With the patient’s consent, the GP practice will then order a replacement screening kit and will make a follow-up call within four weeks to offer further support.

The trial will be led by Ian Wallace, Head of Commissioning, Planned Care and Cancer, NHS Bradford City and Bradford Districts CCGs, who will work with local GP practices to deliver the project.

Ian said: “The areas of poorest screening completion are also the areas of highest deprivation and have the most ethnically diverse population. There are some specific challenges we have in our area, such as the wide variety of languages spoken, but the letter that accompanies the bowel cancer screening kit is only available in English. It can make it hard for people to understand the screening programme and in turn return their kit.

“By providing information in people’s own language that is also culturally sensitive, we hope to see an increase in the proportion of patients completing the test. If we can increase engagement and understanding of the screening programme it will lead to the diagnosis of bowel cancer at an earlier stage, reducing the risk of mortality from the disease.”

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “Yorkshire is home to people from many different cultures and backgrounds. It is incredibly important that health messages are individually tailored to those receiving them so that they are easily understood. We can only begin to improve cancer outcomes by ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to do what is best for their long-term health. We are very proud to be funding this vital research and would like to thank all our supporters for making this investment possible.”

The project is part of a £3.6m investment by the charity in research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer across Yorkshire.

1 Public Health England, National General Practice Profiles, Cancer, https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/general-practice/data