BowelScreen expects to reach “pre-Covid” capacity by the end of this year, a spokesperson has said.
In 2022, 83.7 per cent of BowelScreen participants were offered a colonoscopy appointment within 20 working days of being deemed clinically suitable following pre-assessment. However, this was short of the 90 per cent target. Some 91.4 per cent of participants were offered an appointment within 30 days.
A total of 5,088 colonoscopies were completed in 2022, compared to 4,442 in 2021, 3,441 in 2020, and 4,807 in 2019.
During the year, BowelScreen invited over 303,000 people for screening, which exceeded the annual target. The screening programme is open to 60-to-69-year-olds. Anyone with symptoms is advised to contact their GP.
A priority focus has been the recovery of participation to pre-Covid 19 levels by maximising uptake among the eligible population through targeted communications and promotion.
“BowelScreen was significantly impacted by the changing Covid-19 environment and HSE cyberattack throughout 2021,” said the spokesperson. “Limited endoscopy capacity meant that screening invitations have been delayed by approximately a year. However, we expect to see a return to pre-Covid capacity by the end of 2023. Between December 2020 and 2022, we opened two new additional BowelScreen units – in Waterford and Mayo.”
The programme is working with hospitals to maximise colonoscopy capacity and examining ways to extend capacity.
Meanwhile, the Marie Keating Foundation has launched a new campaign to mark bowel cancer awareness month (April).
The #NoRegrets campaign, supported by Servier, encourages the public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and aims to raise awareness of the increasing incidence of early-onset disease.
Director of Nursing Services, Ms Helen Forristal, commented: “We run a Positive Living support group for those who are living with stage 4 or metastatic cancers and these groups support many men and women who are living with colorectal cancer. We have certainly seen a rise in the numbers attending our group with late-stage disease who are under 50. This campaign is so important because we want to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms and highlight to the public that no matter what your age, if you notice any of the symptoms or notice any changes, don’t dismiss them, get yourself checked.”