The Hawke’s Bay DHB’s bowel screening programme is set to resume in September after a pause because of the Covid-19 pandemic response.
The DHB’s endoscopy unit was converted into a second intensive care unit and reverted back to resume colonoscopy procedures in mid-June.
Service director Paula Jones said the relocation back to the unit and prioritising a backlog of symptomatic patients meant the DHB could not restart the bowel screening programme immediately.
“We are working swiftly to see as many patients as we can and we will be working weekends to help clear the patient backlog,” Jones said.
“In the meantime, anyone with any symptoms of bowel cancer should see their GP urgently and not wait for the bowel screening programme to resume.”
The DHB has been prioritising and treating patients with symptoms before resuming invitations in the post to residents eligible for bowel screening, aged between 60 and 74 years.
All invitations will be managed via a birth date system.
However, the DHB is advising anyone experiencing a change in their normal bowel habits which continues for several weeks, or blood in bowel motions, to see their GP and not wait to receive a free test kit in the post.
Three new consultant gastroenterologists will start work with the DHB in November, January and February to help support the service.
The programme will restart on September 24.
National Bowel Screening Programme
• The free National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) saves lives by detecting bowel cancer early, when it can often be successfully treated.
• This benefits patients and their families and reduces treatment costs.
• Bowel cancer, also called colon, rectal or colorectal cancer, is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand.
• About 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from it.
• There may be no warning signs that bowel cancer is developing.