Woman waiting at clinic desk
February 5, 2019

Rapid Access Clinics not meeting key targets

Cancer Strategy implementation report highlights need for investment in diagnostics

The Irish Cancer Society has responded to the release of the National Cancer Strategy Implementation by calling for the provision of additional resources for diagnostics, as a matter of priority. Despite some early progress, the Society has said the Department of Health and HSE are falling behind on some key targets.

Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society, Averil Power said: “Unfortunately for patients, many are not getting diagnosed within the timelines set out in the strategy. This can cause significant additional stress and worry for patients, often with acute symptoms, at a vulnerable time. We need continued investment in diagnostics, so that patients with worrying symptoms can be seen as quickly as possible.”

“At Rapid Access Clinics (RACs) where patients with potential cancers are referred urgently for tests, performance is behind target, which means some patients are getting diagnosed later than they should. At the end of 2018, 74% of patients with suspected breast cancer and 77% of patients with suspected prostate cancer are seen at RACs within the HSE’s timelines, compared to a target of 95% by the end of 2017.”

The Society says that this comes despite improvement initiatives underway in the National Cancer Control Programme.

“Early diagnosis is hugely important and it can mean the difference between life and death. As such, we are disappointed that referral criteria for patients with suspected cancers that aren't assessed at Rapid Access Clinics, have not been developed by the 2018 deadline. ”

The Society welcomed some of the progress made in meeting targets to date, especially with regard to patient involvement.

“We’re very pleased that the Cancer Patient Advisory Committee has been set up. This gives patients a say in how services are delivered and it is vital that patients and survivors who have been through the health system have a real say in how to improve cancer policy. The Irish Cancer Society has pushed hard for this to be set up quickly and we’re glad it had its first meeting last month.”

“It’s important that progress is being made on the expansion of radiation oncology facilities in Dublin, Cork and Galway. We need to expand our capacity so patients can get the best treatment as soon as they need it. The number of people having radiotherapy by 2025 is projected to grow 32-35% compared to 2010”.

“Overall, it is clear that there is a need for sustained and increased investment over the course of the rest of the Strategy so we can not only stop people getting cancer, but ensure that more people survive and have a better quality of life. Currently, we are well off meeting the target of being in the top quartile for survivorship in the EU, and the Irish Cancer Society will continue to advocate for world-class services for patients.”