National Bowel Screening Programme given clean bill of health

David Clark has welcomed the positive bowel cancer screening review. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

A report into the National Bowel Screening Programme has endorsed the project as it is rolled out across the country.

More than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from the disease.

New Zealanders are more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer at an advanced stage than people in Australia, the US, and the UK. Early diagnosis vastly increases the chance a patient will survive.

The review has made recommendations to the Ministry of Health, which it has accepted. The recommendations include strengthening project management, reviewing IT governance and having greater clinical oversight.

It also raised issues about equality of outcomes relating to engagement with Maori and Pacific peoples.

The screening programme was announced by former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and began in June 2017.

Health Minister David Clark ordered a review of the programme after the change of government.

He was concerned with issues that arose during the pilot programme, which ran from 2011 to 2017, that resulted in some people missing out on screening. 2,500 people had not received screening invitations, three of these had gone on to develop bowel cancer and one of them eventually died from the disease.

Clark said today that he welcomed the report.

“This review confirms that despite some issues with the pilot programme, over all it performed well. It also found that the national roll-out of bowel screening is progressing well,” he said.

Waitemata, Counties Manukau, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Southern DHBs now offer free screening. Remaining DHBs will join the programme, which will be fully implemented by 2020/21.

Once fully implemented, it will offer screening to all eligible New Zealanders aged between 60 and 74.

This will mean 700, 000 New Zealanders will be invited for a screening every two years.