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National Bowel Screening Programme coming to the West Coast

Wednesday 26 May 2021Health news5 minutes to read


26 May 2021

For immediate release

National Bowel Screening Programme coming to the West Coast

Taking a little test could save your life!

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) will officially go-live in the West Coast District Health Board region this coming Monday, 31 May 2021.

Free bowel screening kits aimed at saving lives will start arriving in the mailboxes of West Coast people aged 60 to 74 from early June 2021 provided they are registered with a General Practice. We encourage everyone that fits into this age group to register with a General Practice (it’s free) and to ensure their contact details are up to date.

On the Coast, around 6,505 people will be eligible to take part during the first two years of the programme.

People receiving the kits are being asked to “take a little test that could save their life”.

West Coast DHB’s General Manager Philip Wheble says this is tremendous news especially as screening is really important because many people don’t realise that there might be a problem. For some people, taking the test and returning their test sample could quite literally be a life-saver.”

“We anticipate that investigations prompted by returned tests will enable us to treat about 10 cancers in the first year. We also expect to pick up some pre-cancerous and non-cancerous polyps and, in these instances, the participants will become part of our surveillance programme. Finding and removing them early dramatically increases people’s chance of a successful outcome,” Mr Wheble says.

Initially, the National Coordination Centre will send a letter to everyone who fits the eligibility criteria to explain the process and to invite them to participate in the programme. Test kits will gradually be sent to invitees over the following two years on or near their birthday.

The test kit itself is about the size of a large USB stick, is easy to use and accompanied by clear instructions. It is designed to pick up tiny traces of blood in your faeces (poo) and enables us to carry out further investigations to ensure we catch cancers before they become advanced and more difficult to treat.

West Coast DHB’s NBSP Clinical Lead Dr Kevin Naidoo says it’s important to be clear that screening is for people who do not have symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with concerning symptoms such as sustained, unusual bowel movements or blood in their faeces (poo), whatever their age, should seek advice from their General Practice team as soon as possible.

“Whānau and friends also have an important part to play – in supporting and encouraging people to participate in the programme.”

“We need people to ask their older family and friends, if they’ve received their kit and to encourage them to take a little test that could save your life and then, to return their sample straight away,” Dr Naidoo says.

“Our West Coast Health System is very focused on ensuring those who are most at risk receive the right information, so we’ll be targeting mature members of our community and in particular our priority groups who are Māori, Pacific Peoples and people living in areas of high deprivation.” 

What now?

  1. If you are 60–74 years old, look out for the kit. When you receive it, use it, attach the unique label that identifies the sample as yours and post it back straight away together with the consent form dated for the date you used the kit. Put simply – this little kit could save your life.
  2. If you’re not in the eligible age range but have whānau members and friends who are, please tell them about the National Bowel Screening Programme and encourage them to look out for their kit and to use and return it straight away – this little kit could save their life too.
  3. If, at any age, you have worrying signs or symptoms – don’t wait for a kit – make an appointment to see your GP team or health provider immediately. Acting now could save your life.



  • New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and 1200 people die from this disease each year. It is the second most common cause of death from cancer.
  • The disease typically affects older people, which is why the programme is aimed at people aged 60-74. The National Bowel Screening programme is now being implemented in the majority of DHBs and should be nationwide by the end of 2021.
  • Since it began in New Zealand just over three and half years ago, the programme has screened around 340,000 people and detected more than 900 cancers, many at an early stage. The earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival. When bowel cancer is detected early, there is over 90 percent chance of survival.
  • You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, by exercising regularly, by not smoking and by maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Time to screen


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Page last updated: 26 May 2021

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