Bowel screening resources

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Here you can find resources and examples of good practice that can support you to plan and deliver improvement activity at a local level.

A growing evidence base has highlighted a number of interventions that increase uptake of bowel screening, which is currently low, while promoting informed consent.

To let us know if you are aware of or are involved in projects that could provide further evidence of good practice in order to support local teams, please email us on

Our good practice guide resource is to support those health professionals mainly in primary care who want to be more proactive and get them thinking about how they can support their practice population to increase bowel screening uptake. 

This guide offers an overview of the bowel screening programme, some practical tips and templates.

Download the English GP Good Practice Guide

This workbook, from Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Cancer Research UK, aims to support GP practices looking to increase uptake of bowel screening. This includes sample letters, telephone scripts and SMS texts.

Download the Scottish GP Practice workbook

This two-pager highlights some practical tips and examples that can be used in a primary care setting to help support uptake of bowel screening in Wales. It is a streamlined version of our GP good practice guide tailored to Wales.

Download the Welsh GP top tips guide

Involving primary care in bowel screening by sending a letter from the GP endorsing the bowel cancer screening programme and giving information about it has been shown to increase uptake of bowel screening.

Practical tip

  • GP endorsement letters should ideally be electronically signed by the GP and on practice-headed paper; letters sent on behalf of the practice are less effective.

GP endorsement letter templates

  • A template for letters to include alongside the screening kit (from Hewitson et al)
  • A template for letters to send to non-responders (from Shankleman et al)

Building on those templates, Cancer Research UK has produced a version that incorporates elements to promote informed consent.

Download a template for letters to send to non-responders that promotes informed consent (from Cancer Research UK)

It’s important to provide information about bowel screening to increase awareness and understanding of the bowel screening programme. Leaflets provided alongside the screening kit or in a GP practice or community setting can support and improve understanding and awareness of bowel screening.

Practical tip

  • A study by Hewitson et al, showed that it’s possible to increase uptake of bowel screening by providing a leaflet alongside the bowel screening kit, that directly addresses perceived barriers to completing the test and provides practical tips.

Enhanced bowel screening information leaflets

  • A text template for an enhanced patient information leaflet to provide alongside the bowel screening kit (from Hewitson et al). (Please note since the publication of this leaflet, the eligible age range for bowel screening has been extended and now includes adults from 60-74).

Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BSCP) leaflets

  • English BCSP leaflets - Available in multiple languages, large print, British Sign Language and for those with learning disabilities

Telephone advice used in a primary care setting to follow up non-responders/first timers on bowel screening can be an effective way to provide information to the public and increase uptake of bowel screening. This strategy has been successfully used to increase bowel screening uptake in a peer reviewed local project (Shankleman et al).

Practical tips

  • Consider enlisting the help of a community organisation with experience of telephone outreach.
  • Exclude subjects whose records show a bowel cancer diagnosis, palliative care needs or that they have opted out of the programme.
  • Use trained advocates (can be non-medical) who should be bi-lingual in areas with language barriers.
  • Use a standardised script for the calls and to answer common questions.
  • Consider combining this with other interventions such as a GP endorsement letter.

Telephone call scripts

Building on scripts used in local projects, Cancer Research UK has produced a version that incorporates elements to promote informed consent.

Download a sample telephone script to follow up non-responders and promote informed consent  (from Cancer Research UK)

A number of posters have been developed to help promote awareness of the bowel cancer screening programme. They can be used in GP practices, pharmacies or other community settings to support local activity.

  • English Bowel Cancer Screening Programme posters - currently unavailable as the campaign has ended
  • Cancer Research UK bowel screening poster - specifically aimed at Pharmacists to promote bowel screening (other posters currently unavailable as the campaign has ended)

There is evidence to suggest that people with learning disabilities are less likely to take part in screening programmes, including the bowel cancer screening programme. Resources are available, which aim to improve uptake amongst this population group. Cancer Research UK is committed to monitoring the work in this area. If you know of any projects looking to improve screening uptake then email us at

The "Making reasonable adjustments to cancer screening" report from Public Health England (PHE), shares examples of adjustments – including easy read resources and case studies – which health professionals and carers can use to help people with learning disabilities take part in all three cancer screening programmes.

PHE’s Improving Health and Lives Observatory (IHAL) has a database of examples of reasonable adjustments, which is constantly updated. If you have adjustments you’d like to share you can upload them to the database, more information can be found on the IHAL website.

An animated video for all UK nations, which explains how to complete the bowel cancer screening test kit (for those invited to participate in the screening programme). There is a subtitled version too.

How to do the bowel cancer screening test

How to do the bowel cancer screening test (subtitled version)

Talk Cancer: Cancer Awareness Training

Our Talk Cancer training workshops for community-based health workers and volunteers, help trainees feel more confident in talking to the public about cancer.


Primary care Engagement Facilitators

Our facilitators provide face-to-face localised support to; GP practices and public health teams to improve cancer outcomes. They offer free training to clinical and non-clinical staff on various topics including what practices can do to reduce barriers to screening uptake.


Cancer Awareness Roadshow

Our Roadshow nurses visit local communities, raising awareness of cancer risk factors, screening and early detection. We work closely with health partners in each area we visit and help signpost people to local services.

There are lots of different resources available that you can use to plan and deliver local improvement activity. However, if you need to plan and develop your own resources or activity we have collated tips on the types of information that should be included.

These tips are based on the evidence available on the potential harms and benefits of bowel screening and resources that have been shown to be successful in increasing uptake.

Practical tips

  • Include a recommendation to complete the test
  • Emphasise that screening is for apparently healthy people, not those with symptoms
  • Offer support for questions about screening, e.g. via a screening hub phone line
  • Emphasise the importance of seeing a GP for potential bowel cancer symptoms and any other persistent or unusual changes to the body even if the test comes back negative
  • Include a recommendation to complete the test
  • Include information on both the potential  benefits and harms of taking the test to promote informed consent
  • Directly challenge known barriers in the target group, such as concerns that completing the kit will be too messy or time consuming
  • Provide practical advice on how to collect and store samples, such as using toilet paper or a container and gloves to collect the bowel motion
  • Consider whether there will be any language or comprehension barriers for your target group
  • Consider whether your resources will be appropriate for people with learning difficulties
  • Consider combining multiple interventions

How can informed consent be achieved?

As bowel screening uptake remains low, with wide variations across the country, the barriers that prevent people taking part must be tackled. However, informed consent to take part in the programme is still vital as there are potential harms as well as benefits associated with bowel screening.

The information people receive must therefore be balanced and clear so that people can make informed decisions about whether to take part.

Both the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) and Cancer Research UK have developed examples of resources that encourage participation in bowel screening while promoting informed consent, which are available to download.

Examples of bowel screening resources that promote informed consent

Use our Local Cancer Statistics tool to find and compare statistical information and intelligence about cancer in areas across the UK.

The tool includes data on; bowel cancer screening, cancer incidence, survival and mortality, early diagnosis and tobacco.

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