The Health Minister has announced a timeline for the long-awaited nationwide bowel cancer screening programme, promising all 20 District Health Boards will be offering it by the 2020 financial year.
Healthy adults living in the Southern DHB and Counties-Manukau DHB regions will be the next to benefit, with screening rolled out in both areas in the 2017/18 financial year.
They'll join pilot DHB Waitemata as well as Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs who were the first chosen for stage one of the $39 million rollout in this year's Budget with a 2017 start date.
Minister Jonathan Coleman says Southern and Counties Manukau have been chosen as both DHBs are on track to have the infrastructure and workforce in place to screen safely.
He also says Southern DHB has one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the country, while Counties Manukau has a high proportion of New Zealand's Maori and Pacific population (in the 60-74 age group range) which traditionally have poorer survival outcomes for bowel cancer.
"Both DHBs are managing their colonoscopy waiting lists for urgent and non-urgent cases at over 90 per cent seen within the recommended time, and they have the capacity to support implementation of the screening programme," Dr Coleman said.
He says the 15 remaining DHBs will be progressively added to the rollout when funding allows.
"The rollout timetable will help to ensure that DHBs are in the best possible position to start the screening programme. DHBs will need to meet strict criteria to ensure they can deliver safe and effective screening in their area."
More than 700,000 people aged between 60 and 74 will be invited for screening every two years once the programme is fully implemented.
The Waitemata DHB was commissioned by the Ministry of Health to carry out a pilot programme, which lasted over three years and saved an estimated 307 lives.
However, doctors, surgeons and patient groups such as Bowel Cancer Aotearoa have been highly critical of the Government's delay to move from the pilot to full nationwide screening, arguing New Zealand has long lagged behind other Western countries in not offering screening for bowel cancer, a disease which kills 1200 patients each year.
Around 3000 Kiwis are diagnosed annually and early detection through screening has been proven to save lives.
During the early screening rounds, it's expected that approximately 500 to 700 cancers will be detected each year.
Provisional roll-out dates - throughout 2017/18 financial year:
Waitemata DHB (confirmed)
Hutt Valley DHB (confirmed)
Wairarapa DHB (confirmed)
Counties Manukau DHB
Throughout 2018/19 financial year:
Hawke's Bay DHB
Capital and Coast DHB
Nelson Marlborough DHB
South Canterbury DHB
Throughout 2019/20 financial year:
Bay of Plenty DHB
West Coast DHB