Labour leader David Cunliffe announces a commitment to a national bowel screening programme, while in Dunedin. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Preventing the deaths from bowel cancer of people in Otago
and Southland was a priority for the Labour Party, leader
David Cunliffe said in Dunedin yesterday.
Mr Cunliffe used a visit to the city to announce part of
Labour's health policy, committing to a national bowel
screening programme which would start with extending the
current service to the Southern and Waikato health districts
at a cost of $14 million.
Eventually, the programme would be implemented nationwide at
the cost of $60 million.
The move would involve extra funding of the health budget,
although how Labour would fund the programme was not
Mr Cunliffe promised the funding method would be released
later, along with an announcement about a possible upgrading
of part of Dunedin Hospital.
The Southern district had the highest incidence of bowel
cancer and the highest death rate, along with Waikato which
also had the highest death rate but not the highest incidence
of the cancer, Labour health spokeswoman Annette King told
the Otago Daily Times.
The roll-out would expand on a successful screening programme
pilot scheme launched at the time Mr Cunliffe was a health
''As minister of health in 2008, I pushed for the nationwide
roll-out of bowel cancer screening. Since then, National has
dragged the chain,'' Mr Cunliffe said.
Bowel cancer was the second-highest occurring cancer in New
Zealand after lung cancer and caused 4.5 times more deaths
than road accidents, he said.
It also killed more people than prostate and breast cancer
National had said it would not make any decision on a
national screening programme until the Waitemata pilot scheme
was completed and all monitoring and evaluation data had been
''In the meantime, people will die waiting. These are
In the Waitemata scheme, nearly 59,000 people completed a
bowel screening test, more than 3200 people went on to have a
colonoscopy and cancer was detected in 129 people, he said.
Screening resulted in at least a 15% reduction in the death
rate and could prevent 180 deaths a year.
Initially, the programme would target people aged between 50
and 64 with a view to extending it to 74 in the future, in a
similar fashion to Labour's breast screening programme.