Colon capsule endoscopy is to be trialled across the NHS. The miniature cameras are no bigger than a pill and will help patients with gastrointestinal disease and bowel cancer symptoms be prioritised for further tests.

An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will receive the capsule cameras in more than 40 parts of the country.

The imaging technology can provide a diagnosis within hours and can be carried out at home. Whereas, traditional endoscopies mean patients need to attend hospital and have a tube inserted. 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 colon capsule increases diagnostic capacity

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."

At University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation trust (UCLH), the endoscopy team have already started using the innovative diagnostic tool. Clinical lead Ed Seward said: “Colon capsule is a new innovation that has recently become available and involves swallowing a camera pill that takes pictures of the bowel as it passes through. These pictures are beamed to a recording device that the patient wears at their waist.

“Not only does colon capsule increase our diagnostic capacity, because it doesn’t require the resources of a dedicated hospital space to do the examination, it also allows us to do the examination in the patient’s home, so patients who may be shielding or cautious about going to a hospital, can perform the procedure in the comfort of their own homes.”

For more articles and news on cancer tests go to our oncology section