Miniature cameras which patients can swallow to get checked for cancer are being trialled across the South West NHS.
The imaging technology, in a capsule no bigger than a pill, can provide a diagnosis within hours.
Known as a colon capsule endoscopy, the cameras are the latest NHS innovation to help patients 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. This includes North Bristol NHS Trust, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospital Plymouth.
Sebastian Smolarek, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon from University Hospital Plymouth said:
“I am very excited to start this project, and I think it will make huge difference for the patients. It has advantage above standard colonoscopy because its minimally invasive, less stressful for the patients and allows for visualisation of whole Gastrointestinal tract.”
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.
In December alone, more than 25,000 patients were treated for cancer and more than 200,000 people came forward for checks – 13,000 more than the same month the previous year.
Dr Ana Terlevich, Consultant Gastroenterologist at North Bristol NHS Trust said:
“We are really excited at North Bristol NHS Trust to be taking part in this trial. This new colon capsule service will enable patients to safely have a cancer excluded without the need for an invasive procedure or sedation.
The technology involves swallowing a pill sized camera that takes a video of the bowel. The colon capsule requires minimal time spent in the hospital and our patients will be able to be at home during the majority of the investigation.
All of our patients should be confident that the NHS is safe and is here for them and so if you are experiencing symptoms, please get in touch.”
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.
If you are experiencing symptoms the message is clear – do not delay, help us to help you by coming forward for care – the NHS is ready and able to treat you.