National Bowel Cancer Working Group

The National Bowel Cancer Working Group (NBCWG) provides advice to the Ministry cancer services and bowel screening teams on bowel cancer diagnosis and treatment and the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Its role is to:

  • promote the early diagnosis of bowel cancer
  • ensure the care provided to people with bowel cancer or suspected bowel cancer is carried out in a timely way and is accessible for all people
  • ensure that people with bowel cancer receive quality treatment options.

The NBCWG aims to achieve national consistency in the diagnosis and care of people with bowel cancer. The expert group, established in 2011, is made up of clinicians, representatives from the Regional Cancer Networks, and other key stakeholders.


The NBCWG provides advice to the Ministry Cancer Services and Bowel screening teams, and to the Cancer Programme Leadership Board where appropriate. Its advice covers:

  • the development of bowel cancer specific patient management frameworks to guide and promote uniform standards of service provision across New Zealand for patients in primary, secondary and tertiary care services
  • the development of national clinical minimum standards guidelines, referral pathways and prioritisation criteria – drawn from evidence based guidelines including prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, palliative and supportive care for all patients with bowel cancer in primary, secondary and tertiary care services
  • appropriate key performance indicators of service delivery and clinical outcomes
  • appropriate national minimum datasets and quality measures of service delivery and clinical outcomes
  • systemic barriers and gaps in services and ways to resolve these
  • new developments that may impact on bowel cancer outcomes
  • initiatives related to bowel cancer that inform the national cancer prioritisation process
  • bowel cancer research and appropriate directions for research in the New Zealand context.


The NBCWG has worked to improve national consistency in treating bowel cancer. This included:

  • reviewing and updating national colonoscopy referral criteria for clinicians. This criteria, known as the Referral Criteria for Direct Access Outpatient Colonoscopy or CT Colonography helps ensure all patients receive consistent care
  • developing a position statement on the appropriate use of CT colonography for detecting colorectal cancer
  • evaluating the timeliness of treatments, and the outcomes for patients
  • supporting the National Bowel Cancer screening programme (include link to main bowel cancer screening webpage).
  • reviewing new evidence relating to other bowel screening tests
  • developing guidance for clinicians on addressing inequities along the bowel cancer pathway, to help improve bowel cancer outcomes.
  • developing a minimum standard around molecular testing for colorectal cancer (to be published shortly)
  • overseeing an audit of pathology reporting for rectal cancer patients (to be published shortly).

Current priority areas

Priority areas include:


Chair: Professor Ian Bissett, Colorectal Surgeon, Auckland DHB

Membership includes:

  • colorectal surgeons
  • radiologists
  • pathologists
  • gastroenterologists
  • colorectal nurses
  • general practitioner representatives
  • a consumer representative
  • a Māori equity representative.

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