Southern District Health Board ready to launch new bowel screening programme

Jason Hill, Clinical Lead, and Emma Bell, Programme Manager, Southern DHB Bowel Screening Programme
Jason Hill, Clinical Lead, and Emma Bell, Programme Manager, Southern DHB Bowel Screening Programme
Health staff across the Southern District are gearing up in readiness for the new Southern District Health Board Bowel Screening Programme.

From this April, over 51,000 men and women aged 60 to 74 who live in the Southern District will become the first in the South Island to be able to participate in the National Bowel Screening Programme.

The programme will see eligible resident receiving an invitation letter, test-kit and consent form through the mail, over the next two years. The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) test is simple to use and detects minute traces of blood in a faeces sample, which can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer, alerting health providers that further investigation is required. Those eligible will be invited for screening every two years.

Major efforts are underway across the DHB to prepare the community and staff for this important new programme, explains Programme Manager Emma Bell: “We’ve started to really get out there talking with people about the programme, and maximising on opportunities to help them feel comfortable with the idea of bowel screening, and looking at how we can drive equitable participation.” This includes attendance at community events such as the recent Southern Field Days, which saw Highlanders rugby players drop by to help raise awareness for the programme.

The anticipated ‘spike’ in the number of colonoscopies that will be needed in the first two years of the programme is to be managed with assistance from a new Gastroenterology facility, which is currently being built at Dunedin Hospital, and newly appointed staff including a senior medical officer, nursing and administration staff.

GPs and primary care staff are also being readied through information sessions designed to help them carry out their important role of supporting their clients on their health journey and promoting participation in the programme.

There is keen anticipation amongst the whole community for the programme, as Dr Jason Hill, Clinical Lead explains: "Southern has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country, and New Zealand has some of the highest rates in the world. We estimate 86 cases of cancer will be detected during the first two years, many of which will be in the early stages when bowel cancer can often be successfully treated. That means this programme will be incredibly valuable to many of our residents and will truly benefit them as individuals, as well as their families, whānau and wider community.”

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Page last updated: 29 March 2018