Press Release

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Coughlan welcomes announcement by the HSE’s National Cancer Screening Service

Today, 3rd February, on the eve of the WHO’s World Cancer Day, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Coughlan, welcomes the announcement by the HSE’s National Cancer Screening Service of the selection of the 15 candidate colonoscopy centres that will support the national colorectal cancer screening programme, which will be introduced in early 2012. The selection is aimed at two key objectives:

  • Identifying the hospitals best placed to take on an additional colonoscopy workload of 10 – 12 colonoscopies per week; and
  • Ensuring an equitable geographical spread of screening centres, with most people living no further than 80 kilometres from a centre.

The introduction of a national colorectal cancer screening programme is a priority for the Irish health system as it will detect cancers earlier and therefore allow for more effective treatment. In addition, screening will help prevent cancer in the first place by detecting pre-cancerous growths such as polyps. When the Programme is implemented in 2012 it has the potential to result in a lifetime reduction of 14.7% in incidence of, and 36% in mortality from, colorectal cancer.

Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world, with an estimated 84 million people expected to die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention. The national colorectal cancer screening programme, the first national screening programme in Ireland to include men, will tackle a cancer which is responsible for over 900 deaths in Ireland every year. “The colorectal cancer screening programme will save lives and will reduce the misery that colorectal cancer causes to hundreds of Irish families each year. Despite the financial challenges facing our health system we will continue to implement programmes of proven cost effectiveness” said the Tánaiste.

Approximately 59,000 colonoscopies were carried out in public hospitals in 2008. An equally important announcement today relates to the quality improvement programme which is underway in all publicly funded endoscopy services nationally. The independent assessment of endoscopy services in hospitals has identified areas for improvement which are being addressed by the HSE. The quality improvement programme will allow endoscopy services improve so that patients can be assured of the highest quality services, not just in the forthcoming screening programme, but also in symptomatic services. Noting the progress made in many endoscopy units around the country the Tánaiste said “the progress made in assisting all units attain and adhere to quality standards is an excellent example of how a national system-wide approach, providing clear standards and guidance can improve the delivery of healthcare in the public health sector. I look forward to incremental progress across all endoscopy units towards attaining and maintaining accreditation standards”.