Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Mr Julien Wiggins said the issue of access to colonoscopy services was identified many years ago in the early days of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).
"There was always a concern that the health system would need to ramp up access to colonoscopies as the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program got underway. In particular, there was a need to ensure timely access to colonoscopies for people who returned a positive screening test," Mr Wiggins said.
While the medical profession responded with additional colonoscopy training for their colleagues, medical workforce shortages and increasing demand have created a need for additional strategies.
"Bowel cancer is already our second most common cancer and with an ageing population there will be an ongoing demand for colonoscopy services."
"Quality, consistency and availability of colonoscopy have always been the agreed goal and we're supportive of initiatives that can help deliver on that," Mr Wiggins said.
A proposal from the Grattan Institute by former health department secretary Stephen Duckett has identified the potential role of nurses in bowel cancer screening. Under the plan, about 2000 registered nurses would receive extra training to conduct 40 per cent of endoscopies that screen for bowel cancer. While the plan is relatively new for Australia, endoscopy nurses in the United States have been practising since the 1970s and more than 300 practise in the United Kingdom. Canada has also recently introduced this expanded role for nurses.
"It's encouraging to see solutions being proposed to assist with the challenge of more accessible bowel cancer screening in Australia. As this isn't a new challenge, we hope decisions will be made swiftly."