Healthcare innovation

New technology to help NHS Boards meet demand.

Innovative new health technology is being adapted by Scotland’s NHS to improve patient care and meet demand for services that had to be paused due to COVID-19. 

The Cytosponge is one example of this, offering a faster, simpler alternative to endoscopy procedures for diagnosing conditions such as Barrett’s Oesophagus, which is a known risk factor for oesophageal cancer.

The procedure involves patients swallowing a small pill with a thread attached. This expands into a tiny sponge and is pulled back up, collecting cells on the way, and molecular analysis is then used to identify any abnormal cells.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire are the first Boards to implement the new technology, which will be introduced to all Boards through a phased implementation, with training planned for NHS Fife, Borders, Forth Valley, and Lothian later this month.

The Scottish Government has initially allocated £500,000 to enable the implementation of Cytosponge, to support the resumption of key health services that were paused because of COVID-19, as part of NHS Scotland’s recovery plan for gastrointestinal services.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Cytosponge is part of an accelerated roll-out of innovative technologies being embraced by Scotland’s NHS to support the resumption and recovery of vital health services that had to be paused because of the pandemic.

“It is a much simpler and more patient friendly test than endoscopy that enables faster diagnosis of patients at risk of pre or early cancer, without the need for them to undergo a more invasive procedure.

“The Scottish Government is working at pace with Health Boards, National Services Scotland (NSS), and industry partners to safely resume NHS services and this new tool further strengthens our ability to provide vital health services, and protect patients across Scotland.”


Unlike endoscopy procedures, where clinicians use a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at one end to inspect organs inside the body, Cytosponge is a non-Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP) and can be performed outside of traditional hospital environments, such as community health centres or general outpatient clinics .

An aerosol generating procedure (AGP) is a medical procedure that can result in the release of airborne particles (aerosols) from the respiratory tract. AGPs are associated with increased risk of transmitting COVID and require additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to be performed safely.

‘Re-mobilise, Recover, Re-design, The Framework for NHS Scotland’ sets out how Health Boards will follow national and local clinical advice to safely and gradually prioritise the resumption of some paused services.


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