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National Bowel Screening Programme already making a difference to Southern residents

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National Bowel Screening Programme


It’s just four months since the National Bowel Screening Programme was launched in the Southern district, but it’s already making a real difference to the lives of many residents and their families.

Since late April more than 5,000 home test kits have been sent to all parts of the South. From these, over 2,200 returned tests have shown a negative result, which means ‘peace of mind’ for these residents, and their families. A total of 141 tests have come back as positive for the presence of blood, which can indicate potential bowel cancer. (1) 

Everyone who has had a positive test result is contacted by their GP to arrange further investigation through a colonoscopy.  So far 35 Southern residents have had a colonoscopy through the screening programme. From these, Southern DHB staff have already found cases of pre-cancerous polyps, which were subsequently removed, and one case of bowel cancer, for which the patient is undergoing treatment.

“It’s early days but preliminary results for the first few months of the programme seem to be tracking really well in terms of our participation target,” said Dr Jason Hill, clinical lead for the Programme.

Dr Hill says the increasing demand for colonoscopies, as a result of the bowel screening programme, has not increased waiting times for those who are outside of the Programme. “Thanks to the opening of our new Gastroenterology department, and the team’s hard work, we are able to see more patients needing colonoscopy within the recommended timeframe, which is two weeks for urgent cases and six weeks for non-urgent cases.”

People needing a colonoscopy in the future will also benefit from the launch this month of two new patient videos. The videos on “what to expect when having a colonoscopy” feature both Dunedin and Southland Hospital sites and are designed to help inform and de-mystify the procedure. You can view the new videos on the Southern DHB you tube channel:

Staff at Southern DHB are delighted to be able to see the Programme already making a difference, as Dr Hill explains: “We’ve only been going a relatively short time but already we’re seeing what a valuable programme this is.  Being able to identify and treat polyps and early stage bowel cancer is already changing people’s lives for the better, and the more people that take part, the more of a difference we can make.”

Facts about the National Bowel Screening Programme

  • The National Bowel Screening Programme is now available in the Southern district
  • It is free of charge for people aged 60 to 74 years of age who are eligible for public healthcare
  • Invitations to participate are sent through the mail, followed by a test kit
  • The kits are easy and simple to do, and samples are returned by mail for testing
  • People will be sent an invitation around the time of their birthdate: those with an even birthdate (e.g. 2nd August) will be contacted between now and April 2019, those with an odd birthday (e.g. 3rd August) will be contacted between April 2019 and April 2020
  • Those turning 60 will receive an invitation around the time of their birthday, regardless of their birthdate
  • People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long term survival
  • People are being asked to make sure their details are up to date with their GP so they don’t miss out
  • For more information visit or call freephone 0800 924 432

1. As at 30 July 2018