Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Health
243. To ask the Minister for Health the extent to which it is expected to cater for the needs of cancer patients or those seeking elective treatment while maintaining progress in the fight against Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59761/21]
My Department and the National Cancer Control Programme systematically study the impact of Covid-19 on cancer services through data monitoring and monthly review meetings.
The number of people coming forward with cancer concerns decreased significantly during Covid Wave 1 from March to May 2020. However, the degree of resilience built up in cancer services, through staff commitment, revised treatment guidelines, social distancing and infection prevention and control measures, instilled confidence in people that they could access cancer diagnostics and treatment. Accordingly, we have seen a recovery in the figures since Wave 1:
- the total number of GP e-referrals to cancer Rapid Access Clinics for January-October this year stands at 127% of the activity for the corresponding period in 2019;
- the total number of patients seen across all Rapid Access Clinics for January-September 2021 stands at 99% of the corresponding period in 2019; and
- cancers diagnosed in Rapid Access Clinics from January-September 2021 are at 96% of the comparable 2019 figure.
These figures do not include private hospital activity used to alleviate pressure on cancer treatment services, so the overall figures are higher.
An allocation of €12 million was made this year to ensure that our cancer services continue to recover from the disruption caused by Covid-19. This funding is being used to address backlogs, extend clinic times, provide additional clinics, increase diagnostic capacity and provide locum/temporary support.
In addition, an extra €20 million was allocated for the continued implementation of the National Cancer Strategy in 2021, as well as approximately €15m for new cancer drugs and €10 million for cancer screening. This investment is having a significant impact on access to cancer diagnostics, treatment and supports.
Through Budget 2022, new developments under the National Cancer Strategy will be facilitated by the allocation of a further €20 million. On top of this, an extra €5 million Covid funding is being provided for cancer services in 2022, as well as €15m for new cancer drugs.
It is important that anyone with concerns about cancer visit their GP, who will arrange appropriate follow-up care. Our cancer diagnostic and treatment services are open, and our healthcare staff will provide any necessary care.