Impact of UK Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot on primary care

Ruth Jepson, David Weller, Jeremy Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The UK Screening Pilot has recently been completed to evaluate the feasibility of screening using the faecal occult blood test. Screening will be phased in over the next several years, and it is important to consider the impact on the NHS workforce. Aim. To determine the impact of the UK Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot on primary care workload. Design of study. A retrospective survey and prospective audit of general practice staff. Setting. General practice. Method. Workload impact was assessed using a postal questionnaire and a prospective audit of activity in participating practices, Questionnares were sent to practices that had been involved in the Pilot between 6 weeks and 1 year previously. They were sent to a random sample of 59 practices in Scotland and 60 practices in England between February 2001 and March 2002. Audit forms were sent prospectively to 60 practices involved in the Pilot between May 2001 and September 2002. Results. Sixty-seven per cent of GPs, 82% of practice managers, 69% of practice nurses, and 70% of receptionists responded to the questionnaire. Of 60 practices contacted to take part in the workload audit, 38 returned completed 'workload impact audit' forms. Most practice staff indicated they spent 2% or less of their time during the screening period on Pilot-related activities. Forty per cent of GPs thought that a national colorectel cancer screening programme would substantially impact on the workload in primary care. However, there were variations by country: practice staff in Scotland were more likely to think that it would substantially impact on workload than practice staff in England (44.7% versus 26.6%). Conclusions. The surveys and audit demonstrate to the Pilot has had a discernible, albeit modest, impact on workload in primary care. Workload of particular significance to primary care personnel includes increases in paperwork, administration, and information provision to patients. The majority of primary care staff support the introduction of a colorectal cancer screening programme. However, there is a strong perception, particularly among GPs, that a national programme of faecal occult blood test screening will impact significantly on workload in primary care, and that primary care-based activities generated through screening should be adequately resourced and remunerated. © British Journal of General Practice 2005.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number510
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • Cancer screening
  • Evaluation
  • Primary health care
  • Workload


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