Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called for a rapid review of cancer care to deal with a substantial backlog in screening and treatment services.
Teachta Cullinane was responding to figures provided to him by the National Screening Service which show that fewer than 100,000 people were screened through the State’s screening programmes in the first half of this year compared with 500,000 people screened in 2019.
Separately figures show that medical oncology services are operating at 70% capacity, with cancer surgeons only able to treat about half the numbers of patients they usually can.
“The figures released by the HSE show a massive screening catch-up programme is needed. While I welcome the resumption of some services, more investment is necessary to ensure the safe delivery of our screening programmes.
“We have the third highest rate of cancer in the world, with more than 43,000 cancers diagnosed on an annual basis.The importance of catching cancer early is indisputable, and the Covid-19 pandemic has caused complications in delivering cancer care. While screening is not a diagnostic test, it is hugely important in our fight against cancer.
“More than 450 cancer and 1,600 pre-cancer diagnoses may have been missed this year, according to Irish Cancer Society estimates.
“It is important that we have the key facts as to what level of screening services and care has been missed. We need to know now what additional measures will be taken to protect capacity and what additional staffing requirements there will be.
“I will be launching a fully costed plan shortly that will propose the provision of additional resources to ensure that we catch up on missed cancer diagnoses and care. I will also be meeting shortly with the head of the National Screening Service to hear more about their plans.
“In my view, we must conduct a rapid review of capacity and staffing levels to ensure cancer care is protected in a Covid environment.”