Underfunding of national cancer strategy ‘truly shocking’

Averil Power of the Irish Cancer Society will outline criticisms to Oireachtas committee

Averil Power: ‘disappointing that there appears to be very little momentum’ behind the delivery of the strategy. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Averil Power: ‘disappointing that there appears to be very little momentum’ behind the delivery of the strategy. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The Irish Cancer Society is to criticise as “truly shocking” underfunding of the country’s national cancer strategy.

The chief executive of the society Averil Power is due to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday morning to discuss the funding of the strategy and the National Cancer Control Programme.

In her opening statement Ms Power is expected to highlight serious issues with funding of the strategy, which is designed to improve cancer prevention.

“Not only have resources not been given to the [programme] to deliver the new initiatives promised in the strategy, inadequate funding has been provided to deliver existing services to a growing number of cancer patients.

“This is truly shocking and will have a major impact on patients and their families,” says her opening statement, seen by The Irish Times.

Every missed target affects real people. The mother with a lump in her breast, the father who had blood in his urine that won’t go away

She is also expected to state that it is “disappointing that there appears to be very little momentum” behind the delivery of the strategy.

Urgent case

Ms Power is expected to outline how the society recently heard from a woman whose GP had recommended she attend a breast clinic to investigate some worrying symptoms.

“He said her case was urgent and as such she should be seen within two weeks. Still waiting for an appointment, she rang our nurse-line, very upset. She was incredibly worried, anxious and distressed, thinking about a possible cancer growing inside her while she waited to be seen.”

Ms Power will outline how “by the end of 2018, 95 per cent of people classified as having breast cancer symptoms needing ‘urgent’ investigation were meant to be seen within two weeks but less than 75 per cent were”.

Separately, “nine out of 10 patients with certain cancers were to have surgery within the timelines set out in the strategy”, but “only seven out of 10 did”.

“Every missed target affects real people. The mother with a lump in her breast, the father who had blood in his urine that won’t go away, the healthcare professional trying to do their best in a chaotic system,” she will say.

Ms Power will also say that the 2017 publication of the national cancer strategy was a step forwards but “underfunding and underperformance are two steps back”.