Cancer patients missing chemotherapy ‘due to lack of hospital beds’

Reduced funding also affecting tests on new treatments, Cancer Trials Ireland says

Cancer patients are being sent home without chemotheraphy due to  lack of beds. Photograph: Alan Betson

Cancer patients are being sent home without chemotheraphy due to lack of beds. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Cancer patients who present for chemotherapy are being sent home because of a lack of beds in hospitals, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony told the Committee on Health that the issue had recently come to her notice and said it was “absolutely shocking” that a patient would miss their slot because of a lack of beds.

The Irish Cancer Society’s chief executive Averil Power said “it happens for all kinds of appointments, not just chemotherapy, it is the same for surgeries due to capacity issues in our hospitals.”

She added: “It is a constant source of distress for patients that call our nurse line or present at daffodil centres in hospitals.

“Even when patients are referred to rapid access clinics because they have urgent symptoms, the extra distress that comes from not being treated within the required timeframe is incredible.

“In terms of diagnostic tests when someone has been told that they have symptoms that require urgent investigation, sometimes when they get the test they will be relieved to find out that they don’t have cancer.

“Tragically for others they’ll find out by the time they have a diagnosis that the cancer may have progressed and be harder to treat than it would have been if they were seen within the required time frame, so that is really shocking.”

The committee has been hearing from various organisations in relation to concerns around the funding of the national cancer strategy.

Cancer trials

The chief executive of Cancer Trials Ireland Eibhlín Mulroe told TDs that due to reduced funding, life-saving treatments to patients are being curtailed.

“Due to our reduced funding, we have had to decline opening clinically important academic trials in Ireland.

“These trials would benefit people with a range of cancers including lymphoma, testicular and endometrial cancer. We are unable to be proactive in exploring opportunities to open new trials in areas such as pancreatic, lung, testicular and cervical cancer. This is as a direct result of reduced funding,” Ms Mulroe said.

“Today our trials are providing patients with access to proven but not yet available treatments that can save their lives. There are people on trials today who would not be alive if they did have access to one of our trials.

“So it is really important for decision makers to understand that when the funding for trials is reduced, life-saving treatments for patients today can be removed. Their options are reduced. Is this a wise approach? We believe not.”

Ms Mulroe said t the group needs increased funding from the Department of Health through the Health Research Board.