GP participation in increasing uptake in a national bowel cancer screening programme: the PEARL project

Br J Cancer. 2017 Jun 6;116(12):1551-1557. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.129. Epub 2017 May 18.


Background: The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) in England does not involve general practitioners (GPs). Uptake is ∼58%. The Practice Endorsed Additional Reminder Letter (PEARL) study piloted a GP-endorsed reminder letter.

Methods: General practices in Wessex with uptake <55% (prevalent invitations) were invited to participate. Subjects who had been invited for screening, sent a standard 28-day BCSP reminder letter but had not returned a test kit within 30 days of the standard reminder were sent a second reminder letter bearing the GP's letterhead and signature. Uptake was compared between PEARL and non-PEARL practices by standardised uptake ratio (standardised for prior prevalent uptake and other confounders). In addition, 25 non-PEARL practices were matched with PEARL practices for prior prevalent uptake and number of invitees.

Results: Twenty-five practices agreed to participate. A total of 3149 GP-endorsed reminders were sent. Uptake in the PEARL practices was 54% compared with 51% in the matched-control practices. The adjusted RR for uptake was 1.08 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.11, P<0.001) for all invitees and 2.18 (1.79, 2.66, P<0.001) for invitees who had not returned a kit following the standard reminder.

Conclusions: The GP-endorsed reminder was associated with significantly increased uptake among subjects not responding to the standard reminder letter.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • Female
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reminder Systems