NHS patients to be provided with pill-like camera to detect cancer

Pill Cam
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

Amidst a barrage of bad news for the over-stretched NHS, a new technology is promising to cut the wait time for patients to receive a cancer diagnosis. With legal challenges against the NHS forecasted to rise due to missed appointments and cancelled scans during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is welcome news for a positive future in cancer treatment.

Our expert solicitor Nimish Patel welcomed the news, commenting that “This is a  fantastic development  for the NHS which can allow people to have  greater access to treatment remotely  in a similar way to the way that GPs could schedule video consultation for elderly patients and cardiologists can monitor heart rhythms for patients who are vulnerable to heart attacks.  The advance of  technology will  assist the monitoring and treatment of patients at a time when it is  difficult to obtain appointments for elective procedures and investigations.”

What Does the Technology Promise To Do?

The ‘pillcam’ is primarily designed to be a diagnostic tool for bowel cancer and also other gastrointestinal problems. Officially referred to as a colon capsule endoscopy, the technology can provide a diagnosis in hours and patients can avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of a hospital stay. It acts as a tiny camera encased in a capsule that is small enough to be swallowed, which then films the surroundings as it moves through the gut. The camera takes two pictures per second as the capsule travels, and these images are then sent to a data recorder that the patient carries around in their bag.

According to statistics provided by Cancer Research UK, it is estimated that around 16,600 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year. An early diagnosis is key to increasing the chances of survival, so this new technology could vastly improve the prognoses of many cancer patients.

How Can Technology Help In Lowering Waiting Times?

COVID-19 has challenged the NHS beyond all limits, with all areas of medicine affected by the need to prioritise patients suffering from the virus. As widely reported in the media, the tragic impact that this has had on cancer care has left many sufferers choosing to take up legal cases against medical professionals when their lack of treatment reduces their changes of survival. In relation to bowel cancer specifically, it has been found that the traditional endoscopies that involve having a long, thin tube inserted into the body are not being carried out. This new technology means that the same result can be achieved in a COVID secure environment such as the patient’s home, and the procedure won’t contribute to the mounting hospital waiting times that the pandemic has left in its wake.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘As we come out of ‘peak Covid’ and the disruption of the pandemic, the NHS is now pushing ahead with genuine innovation to expand services for many other conditions…what sounds like sci-fi is now becoming a reality.’

Sir Simon told MPs at the House of Commons Health Committee on Tuesday 9th March that cancer was a top operational priority for the NHS. Professor Peter Johnson, who is the clinical director for cancer for the NHS in England, has highlighted the concerning trend for people to avoid seeking help during the pandemic and stressed ‘The NHS message to anyone experiencing symptoms is clear – do not delay, help us to help you by coming forward for care – the NHS is ready and able to treat you.’

The delays and cancellations to cancer care during the pandemic have been undeniably devastating for some patients during their recovery, but these kinds of technological breakthrough point to a positive future moving out of the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have been affected by avoidable delays in treatment, AWH may be able to help you.

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