Health Screening

Screening identifies people who may be at increased risk of a disease or a condition. New Zealand’s national programmes are managed by the National Screening Unit (NSU) which is within the National Health Board of the Ministry of Health. It is responsible for the development, management and monitoring of nationally-organised population-based screening throughout New Zealand.

Their website:   National Screening Unit   provides valuable information on the five nationally-based screening programmes, and one quality improvement initiative, the services provided and how to access them.

National Bowel Screening Programme

Being rolled out in Otago and Southland since April 2018

Over 51,000 men and women living in Otago and Southland, aged 60 – 74 years of age, will be invited to participate in this free programme.


Programme set to save lives

The National Bowell Screening Programme saves lives through detecting pre-cancerous polyps, or finding bowel cancer early, when it can often be successfully treated.

Over 100 cases of bowel cancer are expected to be detected during the first two years of the programme, many of which will be in the early stages when it is easier to treat. There is also expected to be an increase in colonoscopies, not only due to screening, but also because the programme can make people more vigilant about taking action if they have any symptoms.


How it works

If you are eligible, and it is your turn to be screened, you will be sent an invitation letter. a consent form and a free bowel screening test kit through the mail. The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) detects minute traces of blood in a sample of faeces, which can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer.

Your completed kit is sent back through the mail for testing, and any positive results are communicated to your doctor, who will be responsible for talking with you, either by phone or face to face, about the result. If you require further treatment your doctor will work in partnership with Southern DHB to ensure that you get prompt and appropriate treatment.

If you are eligible you will be invited to participate in the programme every two years.


All tests and treatment are free.

To be eligible for this screening programme you must be entitled to receive public healthcare, and not currently be receiving treatment, or surveillance for bowel cancer.

You do not need to register to participate in the programme as you will be automatically contacted through the mail. However, we are encouraging people aged 60 – 74 years of age to ensure that we hold your correct address details on our files.

The screening programme is only for people with no symptoms of bowel cancer, which typically includes a change in normal patterns of going to the toilet that continues for several weeks and/or blood in a bowel motion. If you display any of these symptoms please contact your doctor straightaway.

For more information visit the Ministry of Health Time to Screen webpage: TimeToScreen