Hundreds of Dunedin Hospital patients did not receive
surveillance colonoscopies over several years but that was
not tracked by the Ministry of Health, which only started
individually recording the procedure last year.
Health Ministry stakeholder relations senior adviser Emily
Barrett said, in an email, the ministry had had limited data
''There has been a lack of information about what
colonoscopies were being performed in DHBs nationally.
''The situation will improve,'' Ms Barrett said.
The lack of information led to ''variations in service
provision'', meaning New Zealanders' access to colonoscopy
partly depended on where they lived.
Last month, the Otago Daily Times revealed hundreds of
patients were being contacted to see if they still needed a
colonoscopy. Dunedin largely stopped providing surveillance
colonoscopy in 2007, except to a small number of patients
with a hereditary condition, because the gastroenterology
service was overloaded.
Surveillance colonoscopy is carried out for patients with an
increased risk of bowel cancer because of their family
history. Before last July, colonoscopy volumes were reported
by health boards without distinguishing between urgent,
non-urgent, and surveillance procedures. The data on
individual procedures collected since then was not yet of
high enough quality to release, Ms Barrett said.
''The data quality will improve as the national referral
criteria for colonoscopy are implemented by all DHBs.''
DHBs were implementing standard referral criteria, against
which the detailed reporting by procedure could be made.
''Initiatives are under way that will improve this situation
by establishing clear expectations for DHBs around the
provision of colonoscopy services, including monitoring
volumes and waiting times across urgent, non-urgent and
surveillance categories,'' Ms Barrett said.
In an emailed statement last month, the health board said
about a third of about 320 affected patients had been
contacted. The catch-up was launched after the board adopted
the national referral criteria.
The ODT is seeking to interview a board representative about
the catch-up programme. Yesterday, a spokeswoman said this
would likely be next week, depending on the availability of