Adapted NHS bowel cancer test developed for blind and partly sighted people

<span>The tool is being tested by about 500 people with sight loss over a six-month period, and if successful will be introduced more widely.</span><span>Photograph: David Davies/PA</span>
The tool is being tested by about 500 people with sight loss over a six-month period, and if successful will be introduced more widely.Photograph: David Davies/PA

Thousands of blind or partly sighted people could find it easier to participate in bowel cancer screening from home owing to a new NHS tool aiding accessibility.

The standard test used to screen for bowel cancer requires an at-home stool sample in a tube, which is sent off and examined for any possible cancer signs.

The adapted faecal immunochemical test (Fit) makes the original test more accessible in a number of ways to blind or partly sighted people, including braille instructions and a channel that enables the sample to be guided into a bottle.

The tool, developed by NHS England in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Thomas Pocklington Trust, is being piloted with about 500 people with sight loss across a six-month period. If successful, it will be introduced more widely.

Standard Fit tests are already part of the NHS cancer screening programme, and are posted to people when they become eligible between the ages 60 and 74. This is being expanded to include people aged 50 to 59.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with an average of 42,000 cases each year. About 54% of cases of bowel cancer are thought to be preventable.

Khadija Raza, policy officer at RNIB, said: “Undergoing health screening can be a stressful time for anyone, but particularly when you have sight loss and face the added anxiety of not knowing if the test will be fully accessible or not.

“Blind and partially sighted people have the right to manage their health with the same level of independence, privacy and dignity as sighted people.

“The Fit tool will address one of these barriers. We look forward to working closely with NHS England to ensure all bowel screening information is provided consistently in required formats, such as braille, large print and audio.”

Steve Russell, national director for vaccinations and screening at NHS England, said: “This tool will enable more people with accessibility issues to complete their Fit kits and ensure we continue to diagnose cancers earlier when it is easier to treat them – potentially saving thousands of lives.

“Our partnership with RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust, and Mast [the standard Fit kit supplier is Mast Group Ltd] has been instrumental in developing this tool and is a good example of how the health service is committed to tackling health inequalities for the benefit of all patients.”