Telephone assessment leads to earlier bowel tests

Pilot scheme benefits people with suspected colorectal cancer 

A nurse-led telephone service is allowing patients to have investigative tests on their bowels up to two weeks earlier, a NHS trust has said.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is piloting a new method of booking colonoscopy tests at Lincoln County Hospital for patients with suspected cancer.

Patients are called by a nurse specialist within days of being referred by their GP.

The nurse assesses their symptoms and history and recommends the best course of action, which could include booking a colonoscopy immediately.

Previously patients waited up to two weeks for an appointment to be assessed by a specialist in hospital, after which tests could be booked.

The trust's senior colorectal nurse specialist Jocelyn Fitzgerald said: ‘You quickly realise how much you rely on non-verbal assessment when you are no longer physically in the room with a patient.

‘There is a script we follow on the phone, but you also have to use your skills to identify problems that are not always clear straight away.’

She said patients in Lincolnshire often travel long distances to reach the hospital. Under the previous system, she said they could be turned away if, for example, they had not had a recent blood test, and they would then become frustrated.

The scheme will be used for all colonoscopy patients in Lincolnshire if the pilot is judged a success.