Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA has contacted the Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly highlighting that Northern Ireland has fallen behind the rest of the United Kingdom by failing, as of yet, to introduce the latest bowel cancer screening technique, Faecal Immunochemical Testing.
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs said “I am concerned that Northern Ireland has not yet implemented the latest approved bowel cancer screening technique, Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). Scotland introduced FIT for 50-74 from November 2017; England is due to roll out the test by the end of this year and Wales from January 2019. ”
Both Wales and England have recently committed to begin screening from 50 in line with international best practise.
Roy Beggs MLA continued, “More than 1,100 people are diagnosed with Bowel Cancer every year, and it is Northern Ireland’s second biggest cancer killer. I am concerned that Bowel Cancer patients in Northern Ireland are losing out as the latest, best practice, diagnostic test has yet to be adopted locally. Bowel Cancer is generally both treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. The latest FIT Screening enables greater early diagnosis, when bowel cancer is easier to treat and there are better survival rates.”
Bowel Cancer UK say “The benefits of FIT are well established. FIT has many practical and clinical advantages over the standard guaiac FOBT currently used in the screening programme. The test has been proven to be significantly more accurate, with the potential to detect a two-fold increase in cancers and a four-fold increase in advanced adenomas. It is also much easier to complete than the current screening test, meaning it can increase uptake by around 10% overall and importantly in previous non responders and across all quintiles of deprivation. As such it has a vital role to play in improving survival rates for bowel cancer, currently the second biggest cancer killer in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Beggs concluded stating “The latest FIT diagnostic test has already been, or is in the process of being introduced, in the rest of the United Kingdom. I have contacted the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health to ascertain when Faecal Immunochemical Testing will be introduced in Northern Ireland. I am aware that there is concern that the absence of a Minister may be preventing the introduction of this earlier diagnostic test that can be life-saving. If this is the case, This will be a very clear case of the current political impasse adversely effecting lives, and cannot be allowed to continue.”