General practitioners’ perceptions of population based bowel screening and their influence on practice: a qualitative study

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. In Australia, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) commenced in 2006. This program uses an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (FOBT) and operates by mailing invitations and FOBT kits directly to eligible individuals’ home addresses based on Medicare data. Some GPs have concerns about the efficacy of the FOBT whilst the NBSCP overall currently has sub-optimal participation. This study has sought to understand how GPs’ perceptions towards population bowel screening influence their attitudes to, and their promotion of the FOBT. The study interviewed 31 GPs from New South Wales and the results were analysed using a thematic analysis. Their findings support existing research that found the perceived efficacy of screening is a determinant of clinical practice. Overall, the study suggests that GPs’ interpretations of screening do not completely align with current notions of population screening possibly resulting in an under realization of the importance of FOBT screening.

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