A ground-breaking test for cancer is being trialled across the NHS.
Patients swallow miniature cameras – which are no bigger than a pill – providing a diagnosis within hours.
Known as a colon capsule endoscopy, the cameras are the latest NHS innovation to help patients to access cancer checks at home.
Traditional endoscopies mean patients need to attend hospital and have a tube inserted whereas the new technology means that people can go about their normal day.
An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will receive the capsule cameras in more than 40 parts of the country.
The NHS has prioritised cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic and the latest figures show that hospitals carried out more than two cancer treatments for every patient they treated for Covid-19.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said, “As we come out of ‘peak Covid’ and the disruption of the pandemic, the NHS is now pushing ahead with genuine innovation to expand services for many other conditions. That’s why we’re now trialling these ingenious capsule cameras to allow more people to undergo cancer investigations quickly and safely. What sounds like sci-fi is now becoming a reality, and as these minute cameras pass through your body, they take two pictures per second checking for signs of cancer and other conditions like Crohn’s disease.”
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer said, “From the cutting edge technology of these colon capsules to Covid protected hubs and chemo home deliveries, the NHS has fast tracked new ways of treating and diagnosing cancer – all while responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Endoscopy services continue and thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, cancer treatment and referrals have come back to usual levels, with more than 25,000 people treated for cancer in December and more than 200,000 coming forward for checks – 13,000 more than the previous year.
“The NHS message to anyone experiencing symptoms is clear – do not delay, help us to help you by coming forward for care – the NHS is ready and able to treat you.”
Infection control measures required to make endoscopies Covid-secure mean they take much longer to do, which has reduced the number of people who can undergo the life-saving checks.
The capsule endoscopy normally takes five to eight hours and provides full images of the bowel with information sent to a data recorder in a shoulder bag, so patients can go about their day.
The cameras will help to speed up the checks, catching more cancers early when they are easier to treat.
To further support cancer services, £150 million has been invested in diagnostic equipment such as endoscopy equipment and new MRI and CT scanners.
Hospitals are using the funding to restructure their buildings with the funds to allow social distancing and help prevent the spread of the virus while continuing to deliver care.
NHS England has already invested £160 million in Covid-friendly cancer treatments, which do not hit patients’ immune systems so hard and can reduce hospital trips, as well as delivering chemo to people’s doorsteps and using Covid-secure cancer hubs.
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