Bowel scheme ‘will save lives’, but scope ‘disappointing’.

Bowel cancer survivor Peter Krijger is relieved that New Zealand will at last get a national screening programme to detect the disease at its earlier stages.

But he is also disappointed at the limited nature of the planned programme, at least at first.

Hutt Valley and Wairarapa will be the only new sites when the national programme, which builds on the successful Waitemata District Health Board bowel screening pilot, starts next year.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman confirmed the long-awaited national scheme in his funding announcement of $39.3 million for it over four years as part of a Budget in which $568 million will be invested in health in the coming financial year.


This was "the biggest increase in seven years", he said, and Vote Health would reach $16.1 billion.

The other limitation stated for the national screening programme - to be extended throughout the country over four years - is on the age of eligibility. The Waitemata scheme offers screening to those aged 50 to 74, while the national programme will be for those aged 60 to 74.

"More than 80 per cent of cancers found through the pilot were in those aged 60 to 74," said Dr Coleman. "Screening in this range will maximise the number of cancers found."

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Mr Krijger, now 55, had surgery and radiotherapy in 2005 to eradicate a tumour which was "just about to burst through" the wall of his lower intestines when it was diagnosed. "If I had waited too much longer, it wouldn't have been too good," said the Wellington IT specialist.

The tumour had caused no pain and it had taken him six months to seek medical advice on his sole symptom - changes in his bowel habits.

He said the national programme "will save lives when it ramps up, but it's going to be quite a wait for the people in those last few DHBs to be rolled out; that's four years on."

"It's disappointing news it's going to leave out people aged 50 to 59. International best practice is 50 to 74."

Dr Coleman said the extra $24 million a year for elective surgery was "part of the ... effort to increase elective surgeries by an average of 4000 a year".

Unions said the increased funding fell short of the amount required for the public health system to keep up with rising costs and a growing and ageing population.

Ian Powell, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said Vote Health's shortfall in operational funding was $304 million.


• Elective surgery gets an extra $24 million in 2016/17.

• National bowel screening programme $11.9 million.

• Pharmac $39 million.