General Election 2020: National Strategies for Cancer and Health
The National Cancer Strategy was published in 2017 and includes a number of ambitious targets to reduce preventable cancer, diagnose cancer earlier, improve treatment, aftercare and palliative care.
We support the implementation of this document as it will make significant progress in placing people and patients at the centre of cancer care.
The Strategy sets out a number of targets to measure performance against these objectives. An implementation report was published in 2019 and showed that just one of seven targets were met in the first 18 months of the Strategy.
Targets not being met include people having access to scans and tests to diagnose cancers within the recommended timeframe, and reducing the waiting times for cancer patients to begin surgery.
Early diagnosis can lead to much more manageable treatment where cancers are found. Meanwhile, it is crucial that patients begin treatment for their cancer within the recommended timeframe.
As of December 2019, 2 in 5 people were waiting longer than three months for a colonoscopy appointment while there were 462 people waiting over a year.
The National Cancer Strategy sets out the goal of the development of at least one Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Ireland by 2026. These centres act as a one-stop-shop in cancer care and seek to bridge the gaps in research, education and patient care to achieve better patient outcomes. We believe it is crucial that Government leads the development of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Ireland to ensure patients have access to the latest treatment options, specialist staff and greater access to life-saving clinical trials.
The National Cancer Strategy also contains key recommendations on the development of genetic cancer services including workforce and infrastructural planning.
As of December 2019, there are over 3,000 patients on a waiting list for genetics services, while 1 in 2 have been waiting over 6 months. 1 in 3 patients have been waiting for over 12 months. Not all of these have a family or genetic risk of cancer, but many do. These wait times can cause anxiety in patients waiting to discover whether they have a high familial risk of cancer. Long wait times also lead to delays in patients accessing preventative treatment like surgery.
Financial resourcing of the Strategy’s recommendations around genetic services is key to reducing genetic testing wait times.
In 2017, the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare published its Sláintecare report.
This document, signed up to by all political parties is a blueprint for the future of healthcare in Ireland, and will make a significant difference in:
- Making sure people access healthcare on the basis of need and not ability to pay.
- Ensuring better access to diagnostics in the community, something which would help significantly reduce wait times for cancer tests.
A new Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office (SPIO) has been set up by the Government to implement the plan, but to achieve the radical changes needed in the delivery of healthcare, more investment is required.
We want to see this vision fully implemented by the next Government.
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