Primary care bowel screening focus sees significant increase in kit requests

Monday, February 19, 2024 - 11:47

A focus on promoting bowel screening in primary care, undertaken by the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) – including district bowel screening teams around the motu – has had very promising results.


NBSP primary care lead, Dr John McMenamin says the primary care focus, undertaken in May 2023, was one response to the lower participation in bowel screening among Māori and Pacific people.


“The aim was to increase screening participation by asking general practice to have conversations with patients who were eligible for the free national bowel screening programme. Practices would then request bowel screening kits to be sent to those patients.


“Prior research had highlighted the important role of healthcare professionals in promoting screening, which contributed to the decision to focus on primary care.


“Practices were provided with promotional materials and encouraged to have GP or nurse-led conversations about bowel cancer and bowel screening with eligible patients.


“We were seeking to find out whether prioritising opportunistic conversations in primary care could result in higher screening kit requests and increased participation rates among Māori and Pacific populations. Around 400 general practices in New Zealand participated.”


Dr McMenamin says a report into the May 2023 primary care focus has some very positive findings.


“This includes a 22 percent increase in kit requests in May 2023 compared to January to April 2023; and a 78 percent increase in kit requests comparing May 2023 with May 2022.”


The data collected also showed:


  • all ethnicities had an increased kit request rate
  • Māori kit requests increased by 37 percent
  • kit request increase varied by region from zero to over 100 percent
  • fewer kits requests were declined as ineligible for Māori and Pacific people
  • kit return rates of around 20 percent
  • kits sent/returned rates by ethnicity are highest for Māori and Pacific people
  • very low-cost access practices requested more kits for Māori and Pacific people
  • kit request rates remained high for the following three months campaign.


Dr McMenamin says the primary care focus will be repeated in May 2024.


“We will have an increased focus on very low cost access practices, and also aim to provide practice-level reporting. The lead up to the campaign will be supported by educational activities in primary care and aligned with the national NBSP public campaign.”


Practices wanting to take part in the bowel screening primary care focus in May 2024 can email [email protected] and ask to go on the list to be sent further information.

Page last updated: 19 December 2023