Transforming patient experience through technology

A ‘smart’ pill has been revolutionising the treatment of bowel disorders, in a pilot programme in the highlands.

NSS staff have been working to further the progress of the programme, providing expertise in a number of different areas and working in partnership with health boards and other organisations.

The colon capsule endoscopy (CCE) is used to investigate bowel problems in patients. The capsule camera is swallowed by the patient and the images are downloaded from the capsule and then reviewed in a reporting centre for potential issues. The pill makes receiving this type of investigation more comfortable and convenient for patients, as it eliminates the need for them to travel to hospital for more invasive procedures such as a traditional colonoscopy.

The patients’ perspective

David (32) works on an oil rig based out in the North Sea. At the end of November 2017 he was off shore, and had been feeling tired and not quite himself. A little blood began appearing in his stool, then when he started passing mostly blood he was airlifted off the rig and taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital on Shetland.

David (pictured) underwent a procedure using similar technology to the CCE, which ultimately helped save his life.


David was then airlifted across to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI), where he continued to lose copious amounts of blood and more invasive tests were carried out. Eventually, after swallowing a capsule camera, consultants confirmed the diagnosis and he was rushed into surgery. Thankfully, it went to plan, and after a few more days in the ARI recovering, he was able to come home to Edinburgh where his two young daughters and his wife were eager to see him.

David said: “The camera identified where blood started to appear in my bowel which gave the surgeons a starting point to perform my surgery.  When the operation was underway the surgeons could identify the area of affected bowel minimizing my time in theatre.”

Partnership working

Partners also involved in the project included:

  • NHS Highland
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Scottish Government
  • Digital Health & Care Institute

What's next?

The success of the pill has now led to programmes which will further evaluate the colon capsule technology to determine whether it can become routinely available across the country. Brendan Faulds from our NSS Clinical Directorate is leading a novel piece of work as part of the Modern Outpatient programme which will further evaluate the new technology and service, develop a business case and, presuming it makes sense from a health and financial perspective, achieve widespread adoption of this transformational service across Scotland.

Brendan told us: “This exciting work forms a proof of concept for a new digital innovation delivery service and it’s a great opportunity to showcase the broad range of skills and expertise of NSS as part of a single service capability. It will also put NSS at the heart of digital health and care delivery for Scotland.”

Download our colon capsule case study (PDF, 2.3MB)

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