Patients in Wales will not be screened for bowel cancer for seven years unless they visit a private doctor, the government has admitted.
The Welsh Assembly Government has committed to introducing a national screening scheme for 50 to 74-year-olds, but has now revealed that the programme will not be rolled out until 2015, the BBC reports.
While 60 to 69-year-olds will be screened from this autumn and 70 to 74-year-olds two years later, the programme will not be extended to those in their 50s until 2015.
Conservative health spokesman Jonathan Morgan told the BBC that the number of preventable deaths from bowel cancer in Wales is a "national scandal".
"I fail to see why Wales cannot implement a national screening programme with the same speed as Scotland," he claimed.
"The assembly government's failure to match this ambitious target could see people in Wales dying needlessly."
Around 36,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, making it the third commonest form of the disease excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.