The HSE's national colorectal screening programme, BowelScreen, commenced in November 2012 and is being introduced on a phased basis to men and women between the ages of 60-69 years. When fully implemented the programme will offer free screening to men and women aged 55-74 every two years. The screening test, known as a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), is a home based test and approximately 94 to 95 per cent of people will receive a normal result and will be invited for routine screening again in two years time. A small number, in the region of five to six per cent, will receive a not normal result and will require an additional test. They will be referred for a colonoscopy to a Screening Colonoscopy Unit within a hospital contracted by the HSE’s National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) for provision of this service.
Over half of the initially selected fifteen candidate screening colonoscopy units have been accredited to date, giving geographic spread to support the screening programme, and maintaining service requirements for symptomatic patients within national targets. The remainder of units continue to work to achieve this benchmark. Also a number of additional units, including Roscommon County Hospital, are pursuing NHS Joint Advisory Group (JAG) accreditation and the NCSS continues to work in close partnership with Roscommon County Hospital in this regard. The HSE is working to develop the appropriate capacity in colonoscopy services nationwide to support the introduction, sustainability and growth of the screening programme, while maintaining and enhancing the capability of the symptomatic endoscopy service.