Press Release

Minister Micheál Martin announces publication of the Report “An Evaluation of Cancer Services in Ireland: A National Strategy 1996”

A 15% reduction in the death rate from cancer in the under-65 age group is one of the key successes highlighted in an independent evaluation report on cancer services in Ireland, published today, 4 December 2004, by Mr. Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children.

Deloitte Management Consultants were commissioned to evaluate the objectives and actions of the 1996 Cancer Strategy on behalf of the National Cancer Forum who are tasked with developing a new national Cancer Strategy.

“This external evaluation is a key component in the development of the new Strategy and is central to the development of quality cancer services. It shows the areas that we have performed well in as well as the areas that require renewed efforts. I´m particularly pleased that the key goal of reducing the death rate from cancer in the under-65 age group by 15 per cent was achieved in 2001, three years ahead of target”, said the Minister welcoming the Report.

The Report: An Evaluation of “Cancer Services in Ireland: A National Strategy 1996” highlights areas of cancer control where considerable progress has been made in implementing the Strategy that directly benefit cancer patients.

Achievements include:

  • An extra 1407 new patients are now accessing radiotherapy treatment services – an increase of nearly 60% since 1994. (2402 in 1994 to 3809 in 2000).
  • The number of new patients per annum receiving chemotherapy treatment has increased from 2693 in 1994 to 3519 in 2000 – a 31% increase nationally.
  • The number of patients accessing surgery has increased by 26% since 1994.
  • Significant increases in the number of cancer care professionals, including the appointment of an additional 87 consultant posts in key areas of cancer treatment and 245 clinical nurse specialists
  • Announcement of the national roll-out of BreastCheck, the National Breast Screening Programme following a successful first phase.
  • An ever increasing spend on cancer services. There has been a cumulative additional investment of approximately €400 million in cancer services since 1996. This represents a 1,477 per cent increase in investment since 1997.

Commenting on the Report´s findings, Professor Paul Redmond, Chairman of the National Cancer Forum, noted that investment of monies was one of a number of critical success factors.

“Cancer patients and their families are benefiting from an improvement in services. In addition to the substantial increased investment, other factors such as better use of human resources, better organisation and the development of multi-disciplinary teams have led to a radical change in how we deliver cancer treatment in this country. And that will continue to be the case as we improve services further”, said Prof Redmond.

Among the Report´s recommendations are:

  • Developing the role of primary care in the treatment of cancer, including health promotion and cancer awareness, early detection and screening, palliative care and patient support following discharge from hospital
  • Developing improved mechanisms to afford patients, family members and carers the opportunity to be involved in service planning and evaluation
  • Clarifying the role of regional and supra-regional hospitals in the provision of cancer care
  • Expanding radiation oncology services so that all patients have equal access to this service
  • The use of evidence based practice in the delivery of cancer care.

Commenting on the Evaluation´s recommendations, the Minister said: “It is important to recognise what has been achieved as a result of the significant increase in investment. The services that exist today are unrecognisable from those that existed only seven years ago. Credit should be given to cancer care staff involved in these developments. The identification of expanding radiation oncology services is in line with the recommendations in the recently published report: Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland. This approach has been accepted by Government and it is my number one priority in cancer services in the acute hospital setting”.

The Minister recognised that the Evaluation highlights areas where gaps in cancer services currently exist. He said that this was highly relevant in the development of a new comprehensive National Cancer Strategy that addresses all aspects of cancer control. He thanked the National Cancer Forum for its work to date in the development of the new Strategy and looked forward to its launch next year.

In relation to the new National Cancer Strategy, the Strategy will set out the key priorities for the development of cancer services over the coming years. The aim of the new Strategy is to re-examine the National Cancer Strategy 1996 in the light of service and clinical developments since 1996.

There is already a significant body of work on which to draw in preparing the new Strategy. This material has been augmented by a widespread consultation process. Sub-Groups of the National Cancer Forum have been established on Screening, Organisation of Cancer Services, Evaluation and Outcomes, Evidence Based Medicine, Genetics, Nursing and Patient Issues. A substantial body of work has been undertaken to date and the work of these sub-groups will inform the development of the new Strategy.