Bowel cancer screening to include over-50s in England

13 April 2021

Under new plans from NHS England, bowel cancer screening will be extended to anyone over the age of 50 this year.

The extension is part of a programme of measures designed to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on detecting suspected cases of cancer.

It comes as studies have shown a fall in referrals at the start of the pandemic and raised concerns about a surge in late diagnoses of cancers.

Operational and planning guidance for 2021/22 has set out how screening invites will start to include those over the age of 56 years from April 2021.

Previously, FIT kits have been made available for anyone over the age of 60 years old, with 60- to 74-year-olds automatically being sent a home test every two years.

NHS England’s planning guidance said systems should actively support their practices as they complete the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) Quality Improvement module on early cancer diagnosis, which has been continued into 2021/22 as part of GP contract arrangements.

Cancer Alliances are also asked to draw up a single delivery plan on behalf of their integrated care systems for April 2021 to September 2021, to work with public health commissioning teams to restore all cancer screening programmes.

This should include using the additional £50 million investment committed funding for breast cancer screening to meet national standards and to recover backlogs by end March 2022.

2021/22 Priorities and Operational Planning Guidance, published 25 March 2021, is available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/B0468-nhs-operational-planning-and-contracting-guidance.pdf