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

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