Mast reflects on how COVID-19 has affected faecal immunochemical testing (FIT), bowel cancer detection and referrals.

At the very start of the pandemic COVID-19 had far-reaching and devastating effects on all healthcare services in the UK. National screening programmes were suspended for a time and although temporary, the back log and long term effects on rates of colorectal cancer in the population are yet to be realised. In a publication in The Lancet it is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic would result in worse prognosis for 14000 patients over the next 10 years.
Macmillan cancer support started a campaign called the forgotten ‘C’ to draw attention to the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnosis, care and treatment.

The BSG released a joint statement with the ACPGBI containing recommendations for endoscopic activities and these were updated over time. As screening programmes recommenced endoscopy resources were impacted by COVID-19. Initially services were limited to the very urgent cases and even as things eased clinical spaces had been repurposed and staff redeployed. There have been a lot of challenges to overcome.

A speciality guide for patient management during the pandemic was issued by NICE (and the former NHS England) for triaging patients with lower gastrointestinal symptoms.This mentions the use of faecal immunochemical tests as part of the triage of patients referred on the two week wait in those with low and high risk symptoms. This has been widely implemented and FIT has increased across all regions of England. Pathways inclusive of FIT are ever evolving and expanding with adoption varying in England, in the coming months we expect to see further evidence and publication on these. FIT has become an integral part of those referred in secondary care for colorectal cancer investigations.

Here at Mast we are prepared to respond to the growth of FIT. The OC-Sensor™ PLEDIA is a world leading, robust, high-throughput, fully automated solution to FIT.