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 2019 to April 2021.

Main points

For the two-year period from the 1st of May 2019 to the 30th of April 2021:

  • Uptake in this time period was 65%, the highest in the programme's history, and was higher in females (67%) than males (63%), though both were above the Health Improvement Scotland standard of 60%.
  • There was a 20 percentage point uptake gap between the most (53%) and least (73%) deprived quintiles:
Image caption Uptake by deprivation category and sex, May 2019 to April 2021
  • The proportion of colonoscopies performed within four weeks of a positive referral was 39%, an increase of 11% versus the previous report. 34% were seen in four to eight weeks, and 27% in more than eight weeks.
  • 72% of those with a positive referral went on to receive a colonoscopy within the time period, a reduction of 1% versus the previous report. This was slightly higher in males (73%) than females (72%).


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, the screening population in this publication is smaller, at 1.4m compared with 1.8m for previous publications.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 7 February 2023.

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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: 21 March 2024
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