About this release

This report by Public Health Scotland provides an update to key performance indicators for the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. The report includes uptake, laboratory and clinical outcomes of screened individuals, for those invited May 2020 to April 2022.

Main points

For the two-year period from the 1st of May 2020 to the 30th of April 2022:

  • Over two-thirds of people successfully returned their kit (with uptake at 67%), the highest in the programme's history. This was higher in females (69%) than males (64%), though both were above the Health Improvement Scotland standard of 60%.
  • There was, however, a 21 percentage point gap between the most (54%) and least (75%) deprived quintiles, with only those in the least deprived areas meeting the standard:
Image caption Uptake by deprivation category and sex, May 2020 to April 2022
  • 29,228 people (2.8% of the tests) had a positive result and were referred for a colonoscopy – a more detailed investigation. Despite having a positive result, only three-quarters (75%) of those with a positive referral attended for their colonoscopy (75% in males, 74% in females). This is 2 percentage points higher than seen in last year’s report.
  • Waiting times for colonoscopies have increased since last year’s report, with only 31% of people being seen within 4 weeks of their positive referral, a reduction of 8 percentage points since last year’s report. Additionally, 34% waited more than eight weeks for their colonoscopy, an increase of 7 percentage points since last year’s report
  • Overall, 5.2% (1,132 people) of those having a colonoscopy following a positive screen were found to have cancer, although three in five cancers (61%) were diagnosed at the earliest two stages, when treatment is most likely to be successful.


The Scottish Bowel Screening Programme invites those aged 50 to 74 to be screened every two years. Participants are sent a test kit to their home and return a sample from a bowel motion to the Bowel Screening Laboratory. Those with a positive test result are referred to their health board of residence for follow-up, with the majority receiving a colonoscopy.

The programme was paused in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and resumed in October 2020. As a result, while the screening population in this publication at 1.6m is larger than the previous publication at 1.4m, it is smaller compared with 1.8m for previous publications.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 5 March 2024.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 13 February 2024
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