A REVOLUTIONARY type of equipment which will help reshape bowel cancer diagnosis will be expanded at Barnsley Hospital to tackle an ‘ever-growing’ backlog of patients.

The ‘pill camera’ is so small patients can swallow it, but still powerful enough to help rule out bowel cancer.

Barnsley Hospital is one of the centres trialling the use of the technology - colon capsule endoscopy (CCE) - as part of a national pilot programme.

The new equipment will be offered to some people with potential bowel cancer symptoms instead of the more invasive colonoscopy procedure.

Stacey Oliver, lead capsule endoscopy clinical nurse specialist, said: “I’ve been in post since 2014 and before that capsule patients used to come to appointments and were dealt with by a nurse allocated on the unit.

“Sometimes, those patients were waiting longer than they should have.

“This was the first thing I changed, giving patients a slot time and a dedicated nurse for the procedure.

“As the service advanced, we have now got test time slots.

“We do try to ensure patients are not kept waiting, especially when they have procedures that they’re worried about. It’s the fear of the unknown.

“To reduce that we have someone to meet a patient in reception and go through details of the procedure.”

This procedure has been available in Barnsley for a number of years but the department only did around 20 every year previously- however the expansion is hoped to help ease the backlog of an ‘ever-growing’ list of people waiting for a colonoscopy.

Dr Kapil Kapur, lead capsule endoscopy consultant, told the Chronicle: “When we first started this we were doing around 20 every year.

“It’s a mixture of small and large capsules and the pandemic slowed it down.

“But now because of the CCE project we’ll be able to do a lot of capsules.

“The numbers have gone up since the pandemic and we’re looking at doing around 350 this year.”

The test involves swallowing a small pill that has a tiny disposable camera - this travels along the gut taking thousands of pictures.

These are then transmitted to a data recorder that the patients wear around their waist.

David Sasin, 72, from Barnsley, is among those residents who have used the technology - and he couldn’t speak highly enough of it.

“I had a fall on holiday which gave me a lot of pain and I was struggling to pass stools,” he said.

“After seeing the doctor, I had a hospital appointment and was worried I would need a colonoscopy I was quite glad to hear I would be able to have the capsule endoscopy instead.

“Taking the capsule wasn’t a problem at all.

“It was a lot smaller than I thought and went down very easily with a glass of water.

“It’s the size of a large vitamin pill and has a camera and transmitter and I also had a small battery device externally to operate it. “The capsule is linked to a data recorder.

“Then when a patient passes the capsule and brings the equipment back to hospital, the data is downloaded on to a computer and a video is created.

“It’s a far preferable experience to a colonoscopy.”

Although the test is delivered quickly, health professionals and experts still need to look at the images which is not an instant process.

Even though a patient may have this procedure, they still might need to have a colonoscopy depending on the results.