12 Jun 2015

Govt told to act now on bowel screening programme

10:17 am on 12 June 2015

Proponents of a national bowel cancer screening programme are appalled the Government is still holding back with a report showing it would cost less than the flag referendum.

The first evaluation of a $24 million dollar pilot scheme being run in Waitemata, shows it has picked up 95 cancer cases in the first 18 months of its operation.

The programme, which began in January 2012, invites local residents aged 50 to 74 years old to provide a stool sample, and those who tested positive were sent on to have a colonoscopy.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand's Dr Sarah Derrett said the report estimated a national screening programme would cost about $39 million a year to run.

"Currently this Government is more interested in holding a referendum for a flag as a legacy to our Prime Minister at a cost of $26.5 million than it is at saving lives."

Dr Derrett said it was scandalous there had been no action on a national programme, given 1200 people a year die from bowel cancer in New Zealand.

The Government set aside $12.4 million in Budget 2015 to extend the pilot through until the end of 2017.