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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first few months as national bowel cancer screening programme manager

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme
Head and shoulders of national bowel cancer screening programme manager Karen Emery-Downing
National bowel cancer screening programme manager Karen Emery-Downing

As I travel around the country to meeting after meeting, I feel like I should burst into song – “here I am…this is me…” But that would definitely get everyone running for the hills because I have a dreadful voice.

I was appointed national programme manager of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) earlier this year. Everyone I meet has questions to ask, including wanting to know about me and my background, because of the long gap there had been without a national BCSP manager.

I trained as a nurse in Leicester and then specialised in endoscopy and gastroenterology. In 2013, I set up a new bowel cancer screening centre in Leicester. I subsequently became the programme manager and that was it – I was into screening and hooked.

Head and shoulders photo of John Davy
John Davy

I was then very fortunate to be seconded to work 2 days per week with John Davy, my fantastic predecessor as national programme manager. John taught me everything I needed to know (especially about Sheffield Wednesday, the offside rule and Guinness). We all miss him very much and he’s such a hard act to follow but I promise you John that I’m giving it my best.

In January this year, the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) started a ‘little’ consultation about the future models for bowel screening.

Should the age range change? Should bowel scope screening stay or go? What other combinations would give us the optimum programme? At the same time there was the procurement process for the new faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit. We now believe the implementation of the FIT screening test will be a phased rollout, with NHS England leading the procurement with the bowel cancer screening hubs.

In my first 4 weeks in post I hosted some Korean visitors in PHE Screening’s London offices. We were nervous about losing them on the underground but we managed OK and it was a very successful visit.

I am constantly running to catch a train or head to another meeting, but I knew the first few months in the job would be action packed. They have certainly lived up to expectation. The down side of all the travelling is that the family think I’ve gone on ‘holiday’ and ask what presents I’ve brought them on my return.

On my travels I have visited Scotland twice (presenting at a national conference and for a UK NSC meeting) and Wales twice but have not yet made it over to our colleagues in Northern Ireland. I am enjoying learning new skills and meeting new people. I have also relished the added benefit of losing a stone in weight – PHE and the health improvement directorate should be proud.

Everyone has been very welcoming. If I have not had the opportunity to meet you and say hello it’s not for the want of trying. I look forward to catching up with even more of you in the coming months.

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  1. Comment by Sharon Webb posted on

    Great blog and love the 'nod' to John. Welcome to the team Karen