De­lays dog roll­out of bowel can­cer test­ing


Can­ter­bury will of­fer bowel screen­ing to those aged 60-74 years in the 2019-2020 year but con­cerns about staffing for the in­creased work­load re­main.

It is the sec­ond change to the time­frame for the Na­tional Bowel Screen­ing Pro­gramme roll­out in Can­ter­bury since the Na­tional Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted fund­ing to it in Bud­get 2016.

Can­ter­bury was to be­gin the pro­gramme last year, but the Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Health Board (CDHB) told the Min­istry of Health this was not achiev­able given the re­duced fa­cil­i­ties while Christchurch Hos­pi­tal was re­de­vel­oped.

The re­vised date was af­ter April 2018 but the min­istry has con­firmed Can­ter­bury will start the pro­gramme in the 2018-2019 year.

More than 82,000 peo­ple would be el­i­gi­ble for the pro­gramme with 141 can­cers de­tected in the first two years of screen­ing, ac­cord­ing to CDHB es­ti­mates.

Can­ter­bury Char­ity Hos­pi­tal founder Phil Bagshaw said the new time­frame was ‘‘prob­a­bly quite an op­ti­mistic as­sess­ment’’ given the CDHB was strug­gling to meet cur­rent needs for colono­scopies and other di­ag­nos­tic test­ing.

He said there was an ur­gent need for the pro­gramme as it would save lives and re­duce the costs of can­cer care long term.

Pro­gramme di­rec­tor Stephanie Chap­man said the de­layed de­vel- op­ment of an IT sys­tem was the main rea­son for ex­tend­ing the roll­out by a year but it gave DHBs longer to pre­pare.

‘‘We ac­knowl­edge we are ask­ing a lot of DHBs in the cur­rent cli­mate where some have in­di­cated they are fac­ing re­sourc­ing chal­lenges.’’

Bowel can­cer screen­ing ad­vo­cates said the de­lay was ‘‘ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing’’ as pop­u­la­tion wide screen­ing could de­tect can­cer at an early stage, when it could be suc­cess­fully treated.

Con­cerns have been raised about whether DHBs have suf­fi­cient staffing and fa­cil­i­ties to de­liver the screen­ing ser­vice and di­ag­nos­tic test­ing for peo­ple who re­turn a pos­i­tive re­sult.

The Na­tional Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted $77.8m over four years for the screen­ing pro­gramme and this was to cover all setup costs in­clud­ing IT, ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­gional pro­cess­ing cen­tres, a na­tional co­or­di­na­tion cen­tre and di­ag­nos­tic test­ing. DHBs were ex­pected to fund treat­ment of can­cers de­tected from their op­er­a­tional bud­gets.

About the Na­tional Bowel Screen­ing Pro­gramme:

A free Na­tional Bowel Screen­ing Pro­gramme is be­ing rolled out pro­gres­sively across all DHBs.

An es­ti­mated 500 to 700 can­cers will be de­tected each year.

The NBSP started with Hutt and Wairarapa DHBs in July 2017.

The pro­gramme is based on a suc­cess­ful pilot pro­gramme in Waitem­ata DHB

Screen­ing in­volves send­ing Fae­cal im­muno­chem­i­cal test (FIT) kits to el­i­gi­ble peo­ple (60-74 year olds) ev­ery two years to check for tiny traces of blood in their bowel mo­tions.

Those with pos­i­tive results will be re­ferred for a colonoscopy or other di­ag­nos­tic test to check for pre-can­cer­ous polyps or can­cer.

Screen­ing can de­tect can­cer at a very early stage, when it can be suc­cess­fully treated.

Once fully im­ple­mented the NBSP will in­vite more than 700,000 peo­ple for screen­ing ev­ery two years.

New Zealand has one of the high­est rates of bowel can­cer in the de­vel­oped world and 1200 peo­ple die from the dis­ease each year.

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