Media release from health minister Tony Ryall

Health Minister Tony Ryall has today announced specialist nurses will now be trained to perform colonoscopies, a diagnostic test which can identify whether a person has bowel cancer and can find and remove pre-cancerous growths.

The first group of nurse endoscopists will begin training early next year.

Mr Ryall says training nurses to perform uncomplicated colonoscopies was one of the proposals discussed at the Endoscopy Workforce Symposium held in April this year.

“Nurse endoscopy offers real benefits to patients and public health services.

“By expanding the role these highly skilled nurses play in bowel cancer care, we will be able to provide more New Zealanders with colonoscopies.

“It will also help address some of the workforce constraints to rolling out a high quality national bowel cancer screening programme.

“Countries like the UK, USA and Australia have also introduced nurse endoscopists as a way to identify and treat more patients with bowel cancer.

“This Government is committed to improving outcomes for people with cancer – faster access to diagnostic tests, such as colonoscopies, is a big part of that.

“We are investing heavily in helping DHBs improve their endoscopy services. Last year we invested an extra $3.6 million to deliver more colonoscopies. This was followed by a further $8 million this year to improve waiting times for diagnostic tests, including colonoscopies,” says Mr Ryall.

In the 2012/13 financial year, 41,000 colonoscopies were performed by district health boards – a 20 per cent increase compared to 2008/09.