COVID-19 and bowel screening
The National Bowel Screening Programme is restarting in a staggered way to allow hospitals to re-instate staff and resources diverted in anticipation of an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Invitations and kits
If you completed a home screening test before the COVID-19 lock down, your test will have been processed and you will be informed of the result.
If you received a home testing kit and were advised to put it aside until further notice, it is now safe to complete it and send it back.
If your test result was positive
If you were notified that your test result was positive, you will be contacted by your DHB to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy. DHBs are giving priority to people needing urgent investigation and then moving on to people who have had a positive screening test, so there may be a delay before you receive your appointment.
We know this may cause you some concern but remember 92 out of 100 people who have a positive screening test won’t have bowel cancer.
A colonoscopy is recommended within three months of having a positive result and that will always be our aim but where a person is not experiencing symptoms, this time frame may be extended as bowel cancer is usually slow growing.
If you are experiencing possible symptoms of bowel cancer, such as a change in your normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks or blood in your bowel motion (poo), it is important to seek advice from your family doctor, who will refer you for urgent assessment and treatment.
Re-starting screening invitations
If your DHB has started bowel screening and you are waiting for an invitation to participate, there might be a slight delay whilst we catch up with people already in the system. New screening invitations will begin to be sent out again from 11 June with home testing kits posted out two weeks later. You will be invited within four months of your birthdate with even dates being invited in year one and odd birthdates in year two.
If you turned 75 while the National Bowel Screening Programme was on hold. To be eligible for free bowel screening, you must be aged 60 to 74. A number of people who were due to be invited or recalled for screening, turned 75 while our services were on hold because of COVID-19. We are working through a process so that we can send you an invitation letter and a home testing kit after our services resume to ensure you are not disadvantaged by the temporary programme hiatus due to COVID-19. Please keep an eye on our website which will be updated with information about when you can expect your invite to arrive.
We will be reviewing the information regularly and are actively working to re-start the programme as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, thank you for your patience during this challenging time.