€30 million budget for cancer services urged

Use of private hospital capacity urged to clear diagnostic backlogs and deliver timely treatment

The Government must invest €30 million in cancer services in the upcoming Budget, Ireland’s national cancer charity has argued in its pre-Budget 2021 submission, published today (Thursday, September 3).

The Irish Cancer Society’s (ICS’s) pre-Budget submission is pressing for additional funding to the Department of Health of €10m to address current backlogs in cancer services.

Additional funding is sought to tackle backlogs by ensuring appropriate diagnostic and treatment pathways are available to screening services upon resumption; by resourcing diagnostic, radiology and laboratory departments to allow timely access to investigations for both hospital doctors and general practitioners in the community, and by using private hospital capacity, to ensure cancer diagnostic backlogs are cleared and treatment commences on time.

Today’s submission proposes that reductions in capacity, due to physical distancing, should be addressed by making immediate investment in temporary builds while committing to overdue capital investment in oncology day wards, operating theatres, elective-only hospitals, and a comprehensive cancer centre.

“But Covid-19 must not be an excuse for slippages in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. These capacity issues were apparent before
Covid-19. Now, additional financial resources will be needed just to tread water. This is an enormous challenge that requires an ambitious response from Government,” adds the submission.

The most recent data available before Covid-19 suggested that rapid access clinic wait time targets were not being met. These clinics provide testing to confirm diagnoses of breast, prostate and lung cancers, according to the ICS submission. Furthermore, colonoscopy wait times were at an all-time high in February 2020, when one in two people were waiting over three months for a colonoscopy.

The Society’s Pre-Budget submission also outlines the need it sees for €20m in ring-fenced funding to kickstart the National Cancer Strategy (2017-2026) ambition.

Unfortunately, the Strategy’s latest implementation report for 2019 shows that cancer services are underperforming in Ireland, according to the ICS.

“The stark choice is that either proper funding is provided to resource the National Cancer Strategy, which would both save and improve the lives of struggling cancer patients all around the country, or the pattern of underfunding continues, and services and healthcare professionals remain overwhelmed, leading to the risk of worse outcomes for patients,” said ICS Director of Advocacy, Rachel Morrogh.

“Budget 2021 is an opportunity to claw back some of the ground that has been lost due to underfunding in recent years. Over 9,000 people die from cancer every year in Ireland and we want to ensure the National Cancer Strategy meets its target of being in the top quarter for five-year survival among EU member states,” she added.


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