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Bowel screening workforce symposium announced

Hon Tony Ryall

Minister of Health


12 March 2014 Media Statement
Bowel screening workforce symposium announced

Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced a symposium will be held in Wellington next month to look at ways of increasing New Zealand’s colonoscopy workforce capacity and efficiency.

“The single largest constraint to a national bowel cancer screening programme is workforce – we simply don’t have enough professionals to do the colonoscopies required,” says Mr Ryall.

“This is not a new problem, but it’s one that needs to be addressed before a national rollout can be considered. It’s time to approach this more laterally, and consider examples of countries like the UK that are now using highly trained nurse endoscopists as part of their endoscopy teams.

“This symposium will get doctors, nurses, and other health experts from across the country discussing ways of boosting New Zealand’s colonoscopy workforce, and agreeing on some solutions,” says Mr Ryall.

Mr Ryall says there is a need to ensure that people who need a colonoscopy are able to get one safely and in a reasonable timeframe.

“This Government is committed to improving outcomes for people with cancer, and early detection is a big part of that,” says Mr Ryall.

“Last week I announced the initial results of a $24 million bowel screening pilot currently underway in the Waitemata DHB area which has delivered more than 3200 colonoscopies in its first 21 months. This pilot detected cancers in some patients that had no symptoms at all.

“However we currently don’t have the workforce to perform the additional colonoscopies that would be needed for a national rollout of this bowel screening programme.

“If we were to roll out the pilot nationally, by some measures it’s estimated we could need around 100 extra specialists performing around 30,000 more colonoscopies.

“This Government has already achieved shorter waiting times for elective surgery and first specialist appointments. With our focus now moving to waiting times for diagnostic tests, I expect these to also reduce further,” says Mr Ryall.

In the 2012/13 financial year, 41,000 colonoscopies were performed by district health boards - a 20 per cent increase compared to 2008/09.

Mr Ryall will open the workforce symposium at Te Papa on Monday 28 April.

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