16 Apr 2018

Delays for bowel cancer test as DHBs struggle with demand

7:48 am on 16 April 2018

More people are waiting for a key bowel cancer test as some District Health Boards struggle to cope with rising demand.

Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory, at Diaconesses Croix Saint-Simon Hospital, Paris, France (2009).

Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory. Photo: A. BENOIST / BSIP

Documents released to RNZ under the Official Information Act reveal the size of the problem as DHBs roll out a national screening programme.

Details released by the Health Ministry show more people were waiting longer than they should for urgent, routine, and surveillance colonoscopies nationwide in December than two years ago.

Overall the number of patients waiting longer than a fortnight for an urgent diagnosis doubled to 44.

There was also a three percent increase in the numbers waiting too long for routine colonscopies to check less serious symptoms.

For example, Northland had 476 people waiting for a routine procedure in December, more than four times the 2015 figure.

The head of the National Bowel Screening Programme, Susan Parry, said the figures are a concern.

Ms Parry said DHBs are doing more, but a growing awareness and an ageing population are boosting demand.