“I think it’s essential that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”
A study looking at a way to support people as they decide whether or not to have bowel scope screening
This study looked at giving people extra support as they make a decision about whether or not to go for bowel scope screening.
It was open for people to join in 2015, and the research team published the results in 2019.
More about this trial
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers people in England who are 55 years old a one off bowel scope test (flexible sigmoidoscopy). Doctors use a camera on the end of a small tube to look at the lower part of the bowel and back passage (rectum). They look for any small growths or polyps which may develop into cancer if left untreated. Or areas of cancer that may have already developed.
When this study was done, the average number of people who went for a bowel screening appointment was low, at just over 4 out of 10 (43%). And lower than that in some areas of the country.
Researchers want to develop ways to give support and information to people who are invited for bowel scope screening. They hope this will help more people decide to have the test.
In this study, the plan was for a bowel screening nurse (specialist screening practitioner) to contact some people who didn’t attend for their screening appointment.
The main aim of the study was to find out if it would be possible to carry out this type of research with a larger number of people in the future.
Summary of results
The research team found it was not feasible to run a larger trial where specialist nurses contact people who decide not to go for bowel scope screening.
The research team asked 1,050 people if they’d like to take part in this study. The information about the study was included with the initial information sent to people about the bowel scope screening programme.
Of these, 152 people (14%) said they would like to take part. They were put into 1 of 2 groups at random. There were:
- 109 people in the group scheduled to get a phone call from a specialist nurse
- 43 people in group who got usual care (no follow up phone call from a nurse)
Of the 109 people in the group due to get a phone call from a nurse:
- 87 people (80%) attended their screening appointment so didn’t need a follow up call
- 22 people (20%) didn’t attend their appointment and were eligible for a follow up call
The aim of the phone call from the nurse was to find out more about what stopped people going for bowel scope screening. And to offer them information as well as practical and emotional support.
The nurses found it difficult and time consuming to get in contact with people. They were only able to have a supportive conversation with 2 of the 22 people.
The research team felt that the number of people sharing their contact details was too small. They didn’t feel that this was the right way to increase the number of people having bowel scope screening.
Many people still don’t know much about the bowel scope screening programme. The team felt there might be more effective ways to raise general awareness. Or that it may be better for GPs to contact people who didn’t want to have screening, to discuss it further.
The research team concluded that it was not feasible to run a larger trial where specialist nurses contact people who hadn’t attended bowel scope screening.
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Christian von Wagner
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
University College London (UCL)