National Bowel Screening Programme to be reviewed

Minister of Health Dr David Clark has ordered an independent review of the National Bowel Screening Programme.

The free screening programme is being rolled-out in stages around the country, with three DHBs currently on board. It is due to be in place nationwide by mid-2021. 

“During the pilot programme, which ran from 2011 to the end of last year, issues were identified with the updating of addresses that resulted in some people not receiving their invitations to be screened. I want to be assured that everything possible is done to avoid these sort of issues happening again,” says Dr Clark.

Last year, the Ministry of Health wrote to about 2,500 people who had not received screening invitations due to the issue. Three people may have been impacted by the delay and have gone on to develop bowel cancer. One of those people has sadly died.

According to the Ministry’s clinical advice, it was not possible to say whether the outcomes for any of the three people would have been different if they had received their invitations, but their cancers might have been detected earlier if they had chosen to be screened.
 
Since the issue was discovered addresses have been manually updated in the National Bowel Screening Register by cross referencing with the National Health Index. Work is ongoing looking at address records to ensure all errors are being identified.

“The Ministry of Health has taken full responsibility for this matter. As Minister of Health I also apologise unreservedly.

“The independent review will look at a broad range of factors, including information technology, DHB capacity, operational management and clinical matters. 

“We know that screening saves lives. It is important that the public have confidence that we are delivering a safe and effective programme and this review will help ensure just that,” says Dr Clark.

The roll-out of the National Bowel Screening Programme will continue during the review. The review is expected to be complete by June.