Bowel cancer screening will be extended beyond the original four years in Auckland's north and west, but the Government can not yet find the $40 million to $60 million for a national testing programme.

This has angered cancer survivors pushing for a national screening programme, who say the practice is well established overseas and in the Waitemata pilot programme that bowel screening saves lives. Not proceeding with a national scheme is needlessly costing lives, they say.

Video: Budget 2015 - Public reaction

New Zealand has a high rate of bowel cancer internationally. It is the country's most commonly registered cancer and each year around 3000 new cases and more than 1000 bowel cancer deaths are reported.

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"The group is really outraged by this pathetic attempt by the Government to put money into bowel cancer," said Mary Bradley, chairwoman of Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa.

The Waitemata District Health Board scheme, for people aged 50 to 74, began in late-2011 and was to run until December this year. Analysis of the pilot was to help inform a decision on a national programme.

Now the Government is extending the Waitemata scheme with $3.4 million in the coming financial year, followed by annual sums of $6 million then $3 million.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Government was considering the next steps for a national programme but no decisions have been made by the Cabinet.

The largest constraint is the lack of staff to perform colonoscopies (bowel checks) on people with positive screening-test results. Mr Coleman said $8 million was given to district health boards as a one-off this year to do more colonoscopies.

"I can understand [the screening lobby group] are very focussed on this. In the end we have got a lot of priorities across health. Bowel screening is an important priority; that's why we are putting money in," he said.

"When you look at the whole thing, this is a really good Budget package for health in still-tight financial times."

Government 'stalling' on screening disappoints


Peter Krijger has been cured of bowel cancer and he wants more people to have the same chance.

He is disappointed that the Budget does not include any plans for a national bowel screening programme.

"We had the pilot. We were expecting it to finish next year and then the Government would hopefully get cracking on rolling out a national screening programme."

Or if not that, then an extension of the Waitemata scheme to at least one other health district. "It looks like a stalling tactic [and as if the Government is saying]: 'We don't know what to do so let's extend it for a year'.

"If you're lucky enough to live in the Waitemata area you have access to screening. Anywhere else in New Zealand, it's tough luck. That's just not good enough," said Mr Krijger, 54, a Wellington IT specialist and married father of two children aged 21 and 16.

He said the Government had known since 2010 that workforce capacity would be an issue for a national screening programme and had not adequately dealt with it.

It took Mr Krijger at least six months before he sought medical help for his only symptom - "going to the toilet more often, then eventually it was explosive".

The tumour caused no pain, and when diagnosed by colonoscopy was still within the bowel wall.

"It was just about to burst through though.

"If I had waited much longer, it wouldn't have been too good."

Mr Krijger had radiotherapy and surgery in 2005 and has been clear of cancer since but he has a colonoscopy check every three years to make sure.

During the last one a potentially precancerous lesion was removed.

He urges people to ask their GP for a free bowel testing kit - or buy one from a pharmacy - then deliver the completed kit to their DHB-funded laboratory. People with symptoms, such as changed bowel habit, rectal bleeding or pain, should see a doctor.

Mum: Nothing in it for us, but hospice help is cool

The Pakeho/Apiata family at the home in Manurewa. From left - Detroit Pakeho, 4, Kelvin Pakeho, Mereana Apiata and Fontaine Pakeho (7). Photo / Jason Oxenham
The Pakeho/Apiata family at the home in Manurewa. From left - Detroit Pakeho, 4, Kelvin Pakeho, Mereana Apiata and Fontaine Pakeho (7). Photo / Jason Oxenham

Mereana Apiata doesn't think the Budget will help her family, but she is glad of the extra money for hospices announced yesterday and the widening of children's free GP visits and prescriptions announced last year.

"I do think it's cool about helping people in hospice. More money needs to go to those [who] need it," she said.

The Government said it would allocate $13 million a year to help hospices expand their community services for the terminally ill at home and in aged-care facilities.

An additional $3.1 million from July 1, rising 12 months later to an annual $7 million, would support recruitment of 60 new palliative care and support roles at hospices.

Miss Apiata and her partner Kelvin Pakeho live in Manurewa, Auckland and have two children aged 7 and 4.

Their eldest, Fontaine, has asthma, which has put her in hospital twice - although it is now well controlled, thanks to a GP clinic that doesn't charge for children.

Miss Apiata had hoped the Budget would build on last year's announcement of free prescriptions and medical care for children aged 6 to 12 at participating primary care clinics, including after-hours - which comes into effect in July - by adding 13-to-17-year-olds.

Health highlights


• Total funding for the 15/16 year is $15.868 billion, up from the estimate of $15.557 billion in last year's Budget.


• Around $320 million increase for district health boards to pay for extra services and help cope with rising costs and growing population.


• $12.4 million to keep Waitemata District Health Board bowel cancer screening programme running until December 2017.


• $76.1 million over four years for hospice care expansion.


• Unions calculate health is $260 million short of the sum needed for the system to meet rising costs and population, but Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says health received more than 40 per cent of new Government spending and Budget is a good balancing of priorities.