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Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot


originally posted by Alastair McLean on 13 February 2012 and updated 28 February 2014


This is the first cancer screening programme in New Zealand which involves men, and is the first to use a population register to identify and invite people who are eligible to take part. Once the pilot is in full swing, about 1300 invitations will be sent out every week. More than 137,000 people will be invited to participate.

To be eligible, people must be aged 50 to 74 years, they must live in the Waitemata DHB area and they must be eligible for publicly funded healthcare.

Participants are sent a simple test kit that they can complete at home and post back to the laboratory for analysis. Completed bowel screening test kits are processed at LabPlus in Auckland. They receive their results within three weeks and those who need further investigation are offered a colonoscopy. These will be performed at the programme's dedicated endoscopy facility at Waitakere Hospital, which has capacity to deliver about 50 colonoscopies a week

The $24 million pilot will provide information to help determine whether a bowel screening programme should be rolled out nationally. This includes assessing the effectiveness of the programme, how acceptable bowel screening is to the New Zealand population, and how many additional colonoscopies would be required for a national programme.

The pilot has significant involvement from GPs, who will play a key role in informing their patients about the programme, encouraging them to take part and supporting them through the screening pathway.

An independent evaluation team will evaluate the pilot to determine its effectiveness, including cost effectiveness. It will identify factors that might be impeding the progress of the pilot and offer recommendations and solutions to address these. Evaluators will conduct a telephone survey of around 700 people in the eligible 50 to 74 year age range living in the Waitemata DHB to measure people’s knowledge and attitudes towards bowel cancer and the bowel screening pilot. A small number of people will be invited for a face to face interview to discuss their progress through the screening pathway, and what they found both good and bad.

There will also be a national telephone survey of a further 700 randomly selected people in the same eligible age group, living outside the Waitemata area.

Evaluators will also seek significant feedback from GPs and health professionals involved in the pilot, through an on line survey, face to face interviews and group discussions.

The evaluation will provide the Ministry and Waitemata DHB with a clear picture of the performance and progress of the bowel screening pilot over its four year life and will underpin recommendations regarding a possible national rollout.

Website for bowel screening pilot -

Background information -

What Worked Well

Bowel screening pilot finds cancer in 60 people -

For evaluation reports, go to:

Start Date

Oct 3, 2011

End Date

Dec 1, 2015




Community, Primary Care

Target Population


Areas of Focus

Quality Improvement


$24 Million


Ministry of Health

Contact Person

Mhairi Porteous