I am a carer, looking after someone who lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions about screening. They have been invited for screening. How should I deal with their invitation?

We recommend a discussion with their GP in the first instance, as he/ she has access to their medical records and knowledge of their overall medical health. In general, however

  • some people’s mental capacity varies, in which case the decision about screening should be delayed until the individual is more able to decide for him or herself
  • but if the person you care for is unable to make their own decisions about screening, then you, as their carer, should make what is called a ‘best interests’ decision on their behalf (just as you may be making other decisions about their care and treatment). You will need to weigh up the benefits of screening, the possible harms, and what you think the person him or herself would have wanted. Paid carers in particular should get advice from family members or friends about the person’s views before coming to a decision. Whether you are a paid carer, or an unpaid carer, family member or close friend, this process is the same.

To find out more about the bowel cancer screening process, please read our leaflets Bowel cancer screening – the facts, and The colonoscopy investigation. You can also watch a video about bowel cancer and the colonoscopy investigation or telephone the free helpline for advice, on 0800 707 60 60.

For more information on making a best interests decision, you can read Making decisions: A guide for family, friends and other unpaid carers [PDF 390Kb] from the Office of the Public Guardian. Making decisions: A guide for people who work in health and social care [PDF 320Kb] also provides useful information.

To find out more on consenting to screening, please read our Consent to cancer screening guidance.