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Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. announces Strategy for Cancer Control 2006.

The Strategy was prepared by the National Cancer Forum and makes recommendations in relation to the organisation, governance, quality assurance and accreditation of all aspects of cancer care.

At its meeting last Thursday, the Government considered the report and gave its support to a set of actions arising from it, as set out below.

The Tánaiste said, ‘Since the 1996 Cancer Strategy was launched, we have made substantial progress in cancer care. We have reduced mortality from cancer in the under 65 year old age group. People now have increasing chances of surviving cancer. There are many more treatments available, and many more specialist consultants and clinical staff in our health service treating cancer patients.

‘The Cancer Forum's report shows that 34,000 more people were treated for cancer in public hospitals as in 2004 compared to 1998 – an increase of nearly 60 per cent. With this Report, we now have the opportunity to make a quantum leap in cancer control in Ireland. We are anticipating and addressing the trend whereby the number of patients with cancer to be treated in 2020 (nearly 29,000) could be double the number in 2000 (approximately 14,000).

‘The key action arising from this report is to create a single, focused, integrated cancer control programme in Ireland. It will be based on

  • evidence of what works to prevent and treat cancer;
  • standards that assure quality in all aspects of clinical care;
  • and fairness, so that all patients, irrespective of county, region or personal financial means, can be assured of the best cancer care and the best chance of surviving cancer.

'The government is committed to a continued expansion in cancer care. We will invest using this Cancer Control framework. We will also give our backing to the actions needed on the part of the HSE and the Health Information and Quality Authority to organize and manage cancer care for best results for patients.

‘The challenge for us now is to make all the changes necessary to achieve top class cancer control in Ireland. Other countries have done it; there is no reason why we can't.

'I want to pay tribute to and thank Prof. Paul Redmond, the Chairman, and all the members of the Cancer Forum. I look forward to their continuing engagement with patients, professionals and the public in championing this new strategy for cancer control in Ireland.'

Policy basis for actions
The response to the Strategy is based on the need to ensure that:

  • comprehensive and co-ordinated cancer control exists across the continuum of care involving prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, supportive and palliative care
  • where possible cancer is prevented or detected early
  • diagnostic, treatment, supportive and palliative services are consistent, accessible, equitable and high quality throughout the country irrespective of geography or ability to pay
  • effective planning, evaluation and monitoring of performance in cancer control takes place
  • ambulatory care is maximised, thereby reducing unnecessary dependency on inpatient care and patients having to spend more time than is necessary away from home
  • cancer research is developed and integrates into all the activities of cancer control.

Promoting Health, Preventing Cancer
The Government supports a renewed emphasis on prevention as well as treatment.

The Tánaiste said 'Our efforts to prevent cancer will include societal and public policy responses to reduce smoking and alcohol misuse and improve diet and exercise. It is vital, of course, that each person takes responsibility for their own health and makes positive choices to improve and protect it. Our policy is to support and encourage those personal decisions.

'In particular, I will work with the Minister for Finance on fiscal measures to reduce the consumption of tobacco. The ban on smoking in the workplace is a continuing success and we intend to use further proven measures to reduce smoking.'

Regulation of Sunbeds
The Government has accepted the Tánaiste's proposal, acting on the recommendation of the Cancer Forum, to restrict the use of sunbeds to adults only. Heads of a Bill are to be prepared for consideration by Government to regulate the use of sunbeds, including prohibiting their use by those under 16. It is expected this will relate to the commercial sale of sunbed use for those under 16.

The Tánaiste said, ‘Exposing children to ultraviolet rays from sunbeds puts them at greater risk of skin cancer in later life. While it is impossible for the government to regulate and prevent all risk factors, it is important that we send clear signals and regulate where there is evidence that it can bring benefits, particularly in relation to risks during childhood.

'My proposals will also provide for compulsory placing of warning notices in sunbed salons and other places where sunbeds are available for use by the public.'

National Cancer Screening Board
BreastCheck will commence its full national roll-out in 2007.

The Tánaiste today said her goal was to have an Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) rolled out nationally by 2008, based on an affordable model.

The Tánaiste said, 'I will establish a National Cancer Screening Board to amalgamate the BreastCheck and ICSP to deliver both programmes nationally. This will maximise the expertise in both programmes, ensure improved efficiency and develop a single governance model for cancer screening.'

The Tánaiste will also ask the new Board to advise her on the implementation of a national colorectal cancer screening programme, specifically on the population to be screened, at what intervals screening should take place, the type of test required and the requirements for a quality assured and well organised cost effective symptomatic service.

Managed Cancer Control Networks
The National Cancer Forum reiterates that it is not in the best interest of patients that some hospitals perform small volumes of cancer surgery. The Tánaiste said 'To ensure that every patient gets the best quality care, we need to develop better ways of hospitals and health professionals working together based on connection and partnership rather than on isolation and self-sufficiency.'

The Health Service Executive will develop four Managed Cancer Control Networks which will consist of primary, hospital, supportive and palliative care. The development of cancer centres will allow for care to be delivered in other hospitals within the network where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centre. In such circumstances it can be appropriate for much of the treatment to be delivered in other more local locations. It will be necessary to ensure that all cancer cases receiving should be quality assured as part of the cancer centre's service.

This model is operating with considerable success whereby every child who develops cancer has their diagnosis established and treatment planned at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children. For many children, significant components of their treatment are delivered by one of sixteen hospitals under the supervision of and in accordance with the care protocols agreed with Crumlin.

The Tánaiste added, 'It is quite compelling that this model of care has resulted in Ireland having a better performance for cancer care for children than adults, when compared to European benchmarks. Improving the way we manage cancer care will improve results for patients.'

Additional Investment
The Tánaiste reiterated that the Government is fully committed to significant additional investment in cancer control. 'We intend to invest substantially in cancer control based on the reform programme now being implemented by the HSE. Investment will be made in demonstrable return on resources, equitable distribution and priority setting that maximises ambulatory care. The first step now is for the HSE to prepare a robust needs assessment for cancer control for the next five years.'

Cancer Control Research
The Tánaiste also said this new strategy provided the opportunity for a more integrated and identifiable programme of cancer control research.

She said, 'I believe Ireland can develop as a centre of excellence in cancer control research. I am convinced that there is a need for a more identifiable national focus on cancer research to harness the disparate financial and intellectual capital and thereby achieve a better return nationally.'

The Tánaiste is to arrange for work to be done now to ensure that priority areas in cancer research are identified and that current gaps in cancer research can be more effectively addressed and duplication reduced. The aim is to ensure that current and future resources are invested to support an overarching national cancer control research plan.


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