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$12.4m to extend bowel cancer screening pilot

$12.4m to extend bowel cancer screening pilot

Budget 2015 invests $12.4 million to extend the Waitemata District Health Board’s bowel cancer screening pilot to December 2017, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says.

“A colonoscopy can identify whether a person has cancer or pre-cancerous growths. Bowel cancers found and treated early can save lives,” he says.

“More than 6,000 people have received a colonoscopy through the $24 million bowel screening pilot since January 2012. Early results from the pilot are positive and it is providing valuable information for the potential roll-out nationally.

“The Government is considering the next steps for a national bowel screening programme. The largest constraint is having the workforce to do the colonoscopies. There are a number of initiatives under way to address this.”

An additional $8 million was provided in Budget 2014 to help DHBs deliver more colonoscopies. New figures show that significantly more people are now receiving publicly funded colonoscopies, and waiting lists are dropping.

“Over 35,800 people received a colonoscopy last year, up from over 29,000 in 2013. That’s an increase of more than 20 per cent,” Dr Coleman says.

“Nationally, the number of people waiting for a colonoscopy has dropped by over 30 per cent in the past 12 months. This is a significant achievement.

“DHBs are working hard to manage their endoscopy services, and this is now paying real dividends. There are still challenges ahead, however, including further increasing the workforce capacity.”

Initiatives to strengthen the endoscopy workforce include increasing the number of gastroenterology trainees. The sector is also considering increasing the use of CT colonography where appropriate.

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