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First-of-its-kind CT colonoscopy training programme aims to save lives through improved early cancer diagnosis

A pioneering CT colonography training programme is helping to save lives through earlier and improved cancer diagnosis.

Developed by teams at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) and St Marks Hospital London (London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust), the National CT Colonography Training and Accreditation Programme has set out to improve the standard of CT colonography (CTC) across the UK.

The first of its kind nationally, the programme aims to train up to 500 radiographers and radiologists from 2022 to the end of the year.

The programme, made possible thanks to funding from NHS England and colon cancer charity 40TUDE, consists of two modules covering both in-person examination techniques and online interpretation.

Dr Ingrid Britton, Consultant Gastrointestinal Radiologist at UHNM and programme co-director said: “CT colonography performance varies widely across the UK and we hope this programme will help to narrow these gaps and improve patient outcomes”.

“UHNM was the first Trust in the country to deliver accredited CT Colonography training in 2012, prior to this there was no assessment of learning. But with face-to-face learning and endoscopy capacity constrained during Covid, there was an identified need to provide online CTC training at a national scale”.

“This programme delivers the same standard of training no matter where you are across the UK. To save lives, we need to find early small cancers and pre-cancerous polyps, and to find these, you have to do the examination and interpretation techniques to an excellent and exacting standard. If training techniques are delivered in variable ways, to variable standards, there will be pockets in the country where we won’t be finding the early cancers and precancerous polyps, and its these early cancers that make a difference to survival rates.”

A ‘regional centre of excellence’, UHNM was the first of one of five centres across the UK delivering training as part of the programme.

One of those to receive training was Judith Armstrong, a senior radiographer from Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Judith said: “The pre-course modules were easy to use, and the interactive sections were very useful. It was good to spend time with such knowledgeable staff during my one-week practical session at UHNM and see how their experience could enable me to improve my own work.

“It really did ignite my passion and energy to go forward and improve the practice within my own Trust. The staff were all so welcoming and keen to share so that helped me settle in quickly and learn as much as possible in the short time I had.”

Dr Britton added: “To do something like this in the NHS is really difficult, the challenges of working across trusts and regions are enormous . The outcomes of the project so far have been fantastic, its exceeded my aspirations of what we could achieve- but its all down to good teams. Its down to no one individual, rather we’ve got a great team who is happy to work with other hospitals and regions as we couldn’t deliver this on our own, we’ve all worked together.”