Bowel screening standards

Bowel screening standards

Bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a major public health problem in Scotland. It is one of the three most common causes of cancer diagnosis and death in Scotland. Together, breast, lung and bowel cancer accounted for over 40% of all cancer diagnosed in Scotland in 2012. Each year about 4,000 new cases are diagnosed and 95% of these are people aged 50 years and over. Although death from bowel cancer is falling among men and women, around 1,600 people die of the disease each year in Scotland.

Bowel screening can detect blood in the stool. Where this is found, an investigation (usually a colonoscopy) is offered to check for cancer pre-cancerous signs in the bowel of men and women who otherwise have no symptoms, allowing investigation and treatment to be offered at a very early stage which can mean better chances of survival.

This document sets out minimum standards for bowel screening services in Scotland. These standards apply to all people in Scotland eligible to take part in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme.

These standards can be used to reinforce national consistency and drive improvement.  

Standards overview

The sections below will give you an overview on each of the 9 standards we have developed. For more information please download the full publication above.

Scotland has an effective bowel screening service.

Eligible people are invited for screening.

Eligible people are provided with information explaining the screening process.

The number of people taking part in bowel screening is maximised within the priniciples of informed choice.

The time between returning the screening test kit and receiving an outcome letter is minimised.

The laboratory providing bowel screening test analysis meets recognised standards.

People with a positive screening test result are offered a timely pre-colonoscopy assessment and a colonoscopy, if appropriate.

Safe and effective investigation is available to people with a positive screening test.

Histopathology is carried out to a recognised standard.

Consultation report

The draft standards for bowel screening were published on 8 December 2014, followed by a formal public consultation which concluded on 9 January 2015. The consultation was an opportunity for professional groups, health service staff, voluntary organisations and the public to provide feedback and to influence the further development of the standards.

The above report details the consultation process we followed to produce our final standards for bowel screening.

Published Date: 27 March 2015


What is a standard?

A standard is a statement of an expected level of service which demonstrates delivery of person-centred, safe and effective health care, and promotes understanding, comparison and improvement of that care.

Standards can be used for national consistency and/or for local improvement.