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Our Bowel Bus cuts cancer referral waiting times in half

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A report published in the International Journal of Surgery shows that our mobile bowel clinic, set up in partnership with Cwm Taf University Health Board and available for people in Merthyr Tydfil with concerns about bowel cancer, has cut referral waiting times in the area by half.

The “bowel bus” is a specialist clinic housed on board one of our Mobile Support Units, visiting Merthyr Tydfil town centre every Monday since September 2015.

After just six months of being open, the service resulted in a decrease in waiting times for routine referrals to be seen at a colorectal clinic from a mean of 10.5 weeks to 5.9 weeks.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, but figures show that uptake for bowel cancer screening is lower than other screening programmes. Participation in screening is particularly low in disadvantaged communities.

Over the course of a year, 244 patients were examined by the colorectal nurse specialist on board the Mobile Support Unit, including 66 drop-in patients and 135 people referred by GPs. Of those 244 patients, 23 were diagnosed with colorectal polyps and three with malignant tumours.

Additionally, the number of patients who didn’t attend their outpatient appointment on-board the Mobile Support Unit was significantly lower in the Mobile Unit (6.6 percent) compared to the hospital clinic (11.4 percent).

Claudia McVie, our chief executive, said: “The report shows that the clinic is not only a very effective way of raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, but also reduces the amount of time patients are waiting to be referred to an outpatients clinic by half. This is very significant, as we know waiting a few weeks to be seen by a specialist can seem like a lifetime when you’re worried about cancer.

“We know that it can be a bit embarrassing to talk about colorectal health. That’s why we set up a clinic in our Mobile Support Unit, which is a warm and welcoming environment, so that anyone who’s worried about bowel cancer can come in and have a chat. Education on symptom awareness and the importance of getting checked by a health professional is vital to improve survival rates for people diagnosed with cancer.”

Professor P.N. Haray, consultant colorectal surgeon, worked on the bowel bus concept with Tenovus Cancer Care and has provided clinical supervision for the service. Prof Haray said: “The service has been a tremendous success clinically, with patient surveys indicating extremely high levels of satisfaction and almost 100% expressing a willingness to use the service again. It is an innovative, clinically safe and cost effective solution to the ever increasing workload in our hospitals.”

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, Tenovus Cancer Care can offer help and support. To find out more call the Tenovus Cancer Care free Support Line on 0808 808 1010.