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.