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Bowel screening programme success

The success of the bowel screen programme has led to more patients, but longer wait times at Wairarapa Hospital. PHOTO/FILE

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Successful promotion of a bowel screening programme has led to more patients, but longer wait times at Wairarapa Hospital.

The Wairarapa District Health Board discussed the boost in diagnoses, and patted themselves on the back at Monday’s board meeting.

While looking over DHB outcomes for June, the board’s chairman, Sir Paul Collins, asked about wait times for non-urgent colonoscopies in June, which were longer than desired.

In June, the target was to have 70 per cent of non-urgent colonoscopies waiting time or procedures carried out within 42 days.

The actual figure was 44.9 per cent.

Executive leader of integration Kieran McCann said a spike in non-urgent colonoscopies being performed at Wairarapa Hospital had resulted in longer wait times.

“Now we are struggling to meet waiting times to meet that additional volume, but we’ve got plans in place to sort that stuff out.

“We’ve been talking to [the Ministry of Health] regularly about it, we’ve done some weekend work to catch up and we expect those wait times will improve.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

The National Bowel Screening Programme was launched in Wairarapa in July last year, open to men and women aged 60-74 who are eligible for publicly funded healthcare.

Radio interviews, advertising, social media outreach, and community group presentations were part of a broad communications plan to promote bowel screening in Wairarapa.

DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said at the launch that she was excited to bring the programme to Wairarapa residents.

“It is a privilege to be one of the first of the district health boards to be launching the screening.

“We are very pleased with the level of public interest and expect high engagement with the programme.”

Executive leader of medical services Tom Gibson praised the marketing surrounding the screening programme.

“The way we have advertised the programme in this community has been very successful and the surge in demand and the maintenance of that surge has taken everyone by surprise a bit.

“So now we’re playing catch up – and that’s a healthy thing.

“It’s obvious that our campaign has raised the awareness of bowel disease and it’s got people going to their doctors and getting referrals.”

Demand was expected to return to regular patient numbers in time.

Sir Paul said that more people presenting to doctors to be checked out could only be seen as a positive outcome.

“Hopefully, that will result in much lower instances of bowel cancer going forward.”


  1. The DHB seems to be guilty of a form of political spin. Faced with increasing delays in providing non urgent colonoscopies the DHB says this is a “healthy thing and a “positive outcome” and a result of a successful promotion of the screening program.

    This is rubbish, most of the referrals for non urgent colonoscopies would have been referred by their GP anyway.

    Is is entirely probable that some of the people referred by their GP will suffer detrimental effects from the delays in being diagnosed with whatever is ailing them (possibly bowel cancer), possibly some even die.

    From this article It looks like the DHB will be deflecting any criticism of their performance in providing the colonoscopies people need, by pointing to how well they are doing on the flagship screening program. That’s pretty cynical behaviour from the DHB management.

    The Times Age should follow up on this story and get the real facts on how long patients are waiting. It looks like anyone referred today will still be waiting come the new year.

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