26 May 2016

Budget signals national bowel cancer screening

2:44 pm on 26 May 2016

The first signs of a national rollout of screening for bowel cancer are included in today's Budget.

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


The government will spend $39 million over the next four years on a staged rollout - starting next year in Hutt Valley, near Wellington and Wairarapa.

This possibility - foreshadowed by RNZ News yesterday - follows many years of pressure from doctors and patients keen to see life-saving screening introduced to save lives.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer for men and women, and kills 1200 New Zealanders a year. Screening is estimated to save between 16 and 22 percent of those screened, by detecting cancer early when it can be treated.

Budget documents showed almost $12m would be spent next year on the staged or progressive rollout of screening, and the following year, with $8 million in the years after that (2018-2020).

Another hot topic in health - access to elective, or non-urgent, surgery - got an extra $24m a year for the next four years.

Extra support for primary care - a focus if the government is to achieve another major priority, delivering care closer to homes in the community - got $73m in extra support over the next four years.

Mental health featured strongly among new health initiatives in the Budget: $19.5m was ear-marked over the next four years to support mental health services in Canterbury, providing mental health response at an earlier stage got $12m over the next four years.

The tax on tobacco would rise by 10 percent a year for the next four years, taking the price for a standard pack of 20 cigarettes from about $20 to $30 in 2020. The government said this would save lives and help make the country smoke-free by 2025.

School-based health services got $280,000 over the next four years.

In another new initiative, $3m a year for the next four years will be spent to extend intensive alcohol and drug support for pregnant women.

Expanding the healthy homes programme would get $18m over four years.

Ambulance services will get an extra $14.8m over the same period, easing rising pressures in that area.

For their part, cash-strapped health boards get $1.6 billion over the next four years, to invest in services and meet population growth.

Overall, $2.2bn would be provided over four years for new initiatives and to meet pressures, including costs and population growth.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said an extra $568m would be invested next year, the biggest increase in seven years, taking spending in health next year to $16.1b.

The funding increase is about the minimum the Labour Party has said would be needed to keep the system "ticking over", but considerably below the amount it said would be needed to address years of under-funding or real cuts in health.