Delayed cancer screenings and diagnoses a ‘major issue’, MEP warns

Concerns raised over possibly ‘tens of thousands’ of delayed cancer diagnoses in Ireland

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has raised concerns about potentially "tens of thousands" of delayed cancer diagnoses in Ireland due to the impact of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Mr Kelleher was commenting after a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Europe's "beating cancer" plan.

He echoed concerns raised by the EU health commissioner about potentially 100 million delayed cancer screenings and up to 100,000 delayed cancer diagnoses across the EU due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Delayed cancer screenings and diagnoses were a “major issue” that requires “national intervention in every member state”, Mr Kelleher said.

While lockdown measures were “necessary to protect our health system” in Ireland, the impact would be “profound, with potentially tens of thousands of delayed cancer diagnoses in the country”.

Mr Kelleher called for a "specific response" from the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health to "ensure that any backlogs of people waiting for important diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, CT scans or MRIs are dealt with as quickly as possible".

“If there is spare capacity in the private network of hospitals, the department should investigate whether this can be utilised over the next number of weeks and months. Thought should also be given to expanding access to diagnostic services in our public system into the evening and at weekends,” he said.

“While this will require working with staff and unions to agree protocols and procedures, it is very much worth it, and I believe it should happen as soon as possible,” Mr Kelleher added.