Failure to meet Cancer Strategy targets disappointing: Irish Cancer Society

Charity calls for ‘urgent action’ to boost struggling cancer services

Commenting on the publication of the latest Implementation Report for the National Cancer Strategy today, Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said:

“The National Cancer Strategy Implementation Report for 2021 makes for disappointing reading. Many of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) remain unmet, despite already being past the implementation deadline for some of them. The 2021 Implementation report outlines the mid-point progress of the Strategy, and underscores the need for accelerated action on cancer care.

“Although welcome investment was made by the Minister for Health in Budget 2021, today’s report shows that significant, sustained funding and unyielding focus is needed to expand capacity and fill roles across cancer services.

“The picture painted of the current cancer system in this Implementation Report is not what the Irish Cancer Society would want to see at the midway point of the Strategy. The accelerated progress we had hoped could be made in meeting KPIs linked to key areas like diagnostics and surgery hasn’t occurred. This is through no fault of the people working in cancer services but points to wider problems of capacity, infrastructure and recruitment.

“The incredible cancer workforce, who managed to do more with less over the last three years, are facing significant challenges in being able to diagnose and treat patients in the timeframes they would like. It is critical that they are set up for success by expanding capacity, recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals, and building resilience in the health system.

“Although the pandemic had a very significant effect on cancer services, the reality is that even prior to Covid the system was far from perfect. We can’t go back to the way things were, we need a new approach to healthcare that gives people the best chance of surviving disease and having a good quality of life.

“Alongside the National Cancer Strategy, we need a plan that expands capacity across the health service, invests in public hospital infrastructure, builds a well-resourced GP network and recruits and retains our healthcare professionals. Only those things will stop us from sliding backwards, and renewed energy and political willpower needs to be put behind existing plans for service improvement, including Sláintecare, so that they can be achieved.

“We call for urgent action to be taken by Government to turn this around, particularly in the context of figures that were published earlier this week showing that 1 in 10 of the predicted cancer cases for 2020 were not picked up.

“The Irish Cancer Society strongly welcomes the progress that has been made in digital and eHealth initiatives, such as the roll-out of National Cancer Information System and electronic GP-referrals. Better data helps in the delivery of care, and ultimately in improved patient outcomes. It is therefore disappointing to see that there is still no baseline data for some of the KPIs set out in the National Cancer Strategy.

“The National Cancer Strategy set out an ambitious vision of world-class cancer services available to all patients in Ireland. Although progress in many areas has been disappointing to date we have four more years left in the strategy cycle to 2026. With the right amount of resourcing and focus we can still achieve the goal of improving services for everyone.”

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Rachel Morrogh

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