A bowel screening pilot ran until December 2017 in the Waitemata District Health Board area.

Preparations for the Bowel Screening Pilot began in Waitemata in late 2011. Screening as part of Round 1 of the Pilot began to be offered to eligible people aged 50 to 74 years living in the Waitemata DHB area in January 2012.

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) will be rolled out across all region starting in July 2017. The Waitemata Pilot transitioned to the National Bowel Screening Programme in January 2018.

The eligible age range for the national programme is 60 to 74 years. More than 80% of cancers detected through the Pilot have been found in this age range.

As part of the Pilot transition, eligible people aged 50 to 74 years who were living in the Waitemata DHB area continued to be invited for screening until the Pilot end in December 2017. People in the 50 to 74 year age range who have received an invitation through the Pilot will continue to be invited to complete a bowel screening test every two years, while they’re still eligible.

From July 2017, the same positivity threshold (the amount of blood in the sample that triggers a positive result) was used for the Pilot as for the National Bowel Screening Programme.

People living in the Waitemata DHB area who have not turned 50 by the end of the Pilot who had not been invited to participate in the Pilot, will be invited to be screened as part of the National Bowel Screening Programme once they’ve turned 60, if they’re eligible for publicly funded health care.

Budget 2010 committed $24 million over four years for the Bowel Screening Pilot. Budget 2015 invested a further $12.4 million to extend the Pilot to December 2017.

You can find more information about the programme at National Bowel Screening Programme and on the National Screening Unit website.

Why New Zealand did this pilot

Bowel cancer is one of New Zealand’s most common cancers and the second highest cause of cancer death.

More than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and more than 1200 die from it.

Bowel screening can detect cancer at an early stage when it can often be successfully treated.

Information from the Waitemata DHB Bowel Screening Pilot has helped to inform decisions about the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Data collected during the Pilot has provided vital information on participation levels, cancer detection rates and the impact on health services.

It is best practice internationally to pilot a screening programme before offering it more widely, to ensure it is safe for participants, there is capacity to provide timely diagnostic and treatment services and that all processes are working correctly.