The NHS has started trialling the Israeli-invented PillCam, a swallowable camera that can help patients access cancer checks at home. An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will test out the innovative technology in more than 40 parts of the country.
The PillCam was first invented in Israel prior to its acquisition by the US company Medtronic in 2013. The capsule, no larger than a pill, is swallowed by patients and travels through the digestive system and bowel capturing two photos every second investigating for signs of bowel disease or cancer.
The capsule removes the need for invasive colonoscopies and endoscopies and can provide a full set of diagnostic images to medical teams within 5-8 hours. Information is sent to a data recorder in a shoulder bag, so patients are able to go about their day during the process.
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens described the technology as “ingenious”. “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”, he said.
The endoscopy team at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation trust (UCLH) have already begun using the imaging technology.
UCLH Clinical Lead Ed Seward said: “Not only does the 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 hospital, can perform the procedure in the comfort of their own homes”.
Health Minister Jo Churchill said that “as part of our additional investment in the NHS, an extra £1 billion will be used to boost diagnosis and treatment in the year ahead which will allow the NHS to invest in cutting-edge imaging technology such as this”. She added that this will make cancer screening “less invasive and more convenient for patients”.