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NHS test trialling revolutionary micro pill cameras

Posted on March 2021 By Jamie Southwell

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​In a groundbreaking test trial, thousands of NHS patients are being given tiny capsule-shaped cameras small enough for swallowing to allow healthcare staff to inspect for cancer in a matter of hours.

The NHS are trialling the new technology called PillCams in around 11,000 patients throughout England, in over 40 different locations scattered across the country. It works as an endoscopy diagnostic tool for detecting bowel cancer and other gastrointestinal problems, examining the patient over a five to eight hour period as they go about their daily lives.

Head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens referred to the non-invasive method of examination as "ingenious" for how fast and effective it operates in assisting healthcare professionals to detect cancer whilst on the go.

He added “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, and as these minute cameras pass through your body, they take two pictures per second checking for signs of cancer and other conditions like Crohn’s disease.”

The tiny cameras work by taking two photographs from the inside of the patient every second when passing through the bowels, sending the information straight to a data recorder carried in a shoulder bag by the individual.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust were the first to carry out the trial back in February at Colchester Hospital.

Previous traditional methods of endoscopy involved healthcare professionals inserting a tube inside either the mouth or the anus of the patient, requiring them to travel to the hospital. Whereas the new innovative experiment will allow for those receiving it to go about their day without the wait around period.

With more than 200,000 people coming forward for cancer checks in December and 13,000 extra than the same month the year before, the increasing demand for NHS staff to carry out these inspections will ease with the implementation of the new method.

A demand warranted when according to Cancer Research UK, close to 16,600 people die from bowel cancer every year in England alone.

Clinical Director for cancer for NHS England, Professor Peter Johnson spoke about how crucially important creating easier access for the public is, by saying “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.

“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.”