Up to 96 per cent of primary care doctors in a pilot scheme for colorectal screening that is to launch on September 28 will give free preliminary tests to the targeted elderly Hongkongers. This follows on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s policy address this year in which he pledged to introduce a screening programme for colorectal cancer – the most common cancer in Hong Kong and the city’s second-deadliest cancer. In 2013, 4,769 people were newly diagnosed with the disease and 2,034 people died from it. People born between 1946 and 1948, or those now aged between 68 and 70, are eligible to join the first phase of the three-phase programme that in three years’ time aims to cover Hongkongers aged between 61 and 70. As of the end of last month, 218 primary care doctors signed up to provide a faecal immunochemical test detecting invisible blood in one’s stool, which is the first test in the scheme. The doctors received from the government a HK$280 subsidy per consultation, and 96 per cent of them will not be charging patients for the test. The rest of the doctors will charge no more than HK$300 per consultation. Dr Regina Chin Cheuk-tin of the Centre for Health Protection said doctors charging for the test could later alter their fee, but the centre “would see if the adjustment is reasonable”. Thirty collection points, including some government and NGO health centres, have been set up to receive stool samples which will then be sent for testing. If patients test positive in the preliminary exam, meaning blood has been detected, they would be referred to specialists to receive colonoscopy check-ups. Among the 87 specialists who have enrolled in the scheme, 74 per cent said no extra charge would be borne by the patient for a colonoscopy in which no polyp is removed. If a colonoscopy involves polyp removal, 62 per cent said it would be done at no cost. These figures were based on the government’s issuance of subsidises of up to HK$8,500 for colonoscopies that involve polyp removal. From September 26, two days before the programme launch, information about participating doctors including their clinic address and any extra charges are to be uploaded to a designated Health Department website. Eligible persons may start making appointments to arrange for a stool test after they sign up with the department’s electronic health record sharing system. Ching said people did not have to rush to make appointments on the scheme’s first day as there would be no limit to the number of available screenings.