Minister sorry for bowel cancer death
Health Minister David Clark has apologised ‘‘unreservedly’’ after a person who failed to be sent an invitation to take part in a pilot screening programme went on to die of bowel cancer.
Two others who should have got invitations developed the disease.
Clark has ordered an independent review of the National Bowel Screening Programme in light of the invitation bungle, which affected about 2500 people.
The free screening programme is being rolled out in stages around the country, with three district health boards under way.
It is due to be in place across all DHBs by mid-2021 but will not be fully rolled out until mid-2023.
During the pilot programme, which ran from 2011 to the end of last year, Clark said issues with updating addresses meant some people did not receive their invitations to be screened.
Last year, the Ministry of Health wrote to about 2500 people who had not received screening invitations because of the issue.
‘‘Three people may have been impacted by the delay and have gone on to develop bowel cancer. One of those people has sadly died,’’ Clark said.
Bowel screening detects cancers at an earlier stage, when it can often be more successfully treated.
According to the ministry’s clinical advice, it was not possible to say whether the outcomes for any of the three people would have been different if they had received their invitations, but their cancers might have been detected earlier if they had chosen to be screened, Clark said.
‘‘The Ministry of Health has taken full responsibility for this matter. As minister of health I also apologise unreservedly.’’
Since the issue was discovered, addresses had been manually updated in the National Bowel Screening Register by cross referencing them with the National Health Index. Work was ongoing looking at address records to ensure all errors were identified, Clark said.
‘‘I want to be assured that everything possible is done to avoid these sort of issues happening again.
‘‘The independent review will look at a broad range of factors, including information technology, DHB capacity, operational management and clinical matters.
‘‘We know that screening saves lives. It is important that the public have confidence that we are delivering a safe and effective programme and this review will help ensure just that,’’ he said.
The National Bowel Screening Programme roll-out will continue during the review, which is expected to be complete by June.
Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. More than 3000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year and more than 1200 die from it.
The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP):
The National Bowel Screening Programme is being rolled out progressively throughout New Zealand.
Once fully implemented it will offer free screening to all eligible New Zealanders aged 60-74 years.
Waitemata, Hutt Valley Wairarapa DHBs now offer screening.
Southern and Counties Manukau DHBs will be under way by the end of June, followed by Nelson Marlborough, Lakes and Hawkes Bay in November.
The remaining DHBs will progressively join the NBSP, which is expected to be fully implemented by the end of the 2020/21 financial year.
Once fully implemented the NBSP will invite 700,000 New Zealanders to participate in bowel screening every two years.
About 500-700 cancers each year are expected to be detected once the programme is fully rolled out.
Screening is for people who do not have symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with symptoms should see their doctor. and free
Minister of Health David Clark