DHB battling colonoscopy backlog
Nelson Marlborough Health is still dealing with a backlog of colonoscopies, despite having a plan to clear them by November.
At last week’s district health board meeting, deputy chair Alan Hinton said there had been a ‘‘very small improvement’’ in the number of surveillance colonoscopies completed since August.
A colonoscopy is a test used to look at the lining of the bowel, using a tube containing a tiny camera. The national bowel screening programme was rolled out in Nelson and Marlborough in August, adding to the hospital’s existing screening workload.
The same month, it was reported that there were 308 overdue surveillance colonoscopies across the district, and a plan had been developed by the Ministry of Health to ensure the backlog was reduced to zero by November.
However, a report to the board on November 21 showed there were still 285 overdue surveillance colonoscopies.
General manager of clinical services Lexie O’Shea said there had been a couple of challenges with the delivery plan, including a lack of resource to perform the examinations.
‘‘The scopists that we had available to us previously have been wellutilised around the country and probably need a bit of a break, so we have used our own scopists, and we have had others locum for us to maintain the volumes.’’
Since the national bowel screening programme was launched in the district on August 14, there had been 82 positive tests and 31 screening colonoscopies.
Board member Brigid Forrest asked if the numbers of people referred were at the expected level.
O’Shea said the numbers had been higher than expected, and there was work being done at a national level to develop more accurate estimates.
Nelson Marlborough Health delivers around 2000 colonoscopies each year.
The first priority is those patients who need a colonoscopy on referral from their GP because of symptoms.
The second priority is those who have had a positive test as part of the new bowel screening programme and need a colonoscopy to confirm a diagnosis.
The third priority is monitoring those with previous issues or a family history. This group will have a followup colonoscopy every one, two or three years as appropriate.
‘‘The scopists that we had available to us previously . . . probably need a bit of a break, so we have used our own scopists, and we have had others locum for us to maintain the volumes.’’ Lexie O’Shea, Nelson Marlborough Health general manager of clinical services
O’Shea said there had been some progress with non-urgent colonoscopies, and the health board was holding more scoping sessions to
work through the overdue examinations. It was also contacting available endoscopists and fully utilising capacity across the district.