Dáil Éireann - Volume 637 - 27 June, 2007

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to address recent research presented at the annual meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners which shows that people who cannot afford to pay privately for the investigation of possible cancer symptoms face longer waiting lists that those who can pay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17595/07]

  Deputy Mary Harney: I take it that the Deputy is referring to the Report Early Detection of Cancer: A Needs’ Assessment of General Practitioners. The key findings of this study are a need for increased patient awareness, community diagnostic facilities, improved communication with hospitals, further education and clinical practice guidelines on identification of early stage cancer, appropriate investigative pathways and referral criteria for suspected cancer, identification and screening of ‘high risk individuals’ and elimination of inequity between public and private patients.

Population based screening programmes are proven strategies in the early detection of pre-cancers and cancers. I am fully committed to the roll out of BreastCheck, the National Breast Screening Programme, and I have made available the necessary resources for this programme that will ensure national roll out beginning later this year. I expect the roll out of the National Cervical Screening Programme, which will be available to every woman in the 25-60 age group, will take place around the end of the year. Both screening programmes will be available without charge. I have also asked the National Cancer Screening Service to advise on the development of a population based colorectal screening programme and a colorectal screening programme for high risk groups. I expect this advice later this year. The service is required to implement special measures to promote participation in its screening programmes by disadvantaged persons.

In relation to the development of GP protocols and equitable access to diagnostic services, these are key priorities of the National Cancer Control Strategy which is being implemented by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE and the Irish Cancer Society also have education and awareness programmes in place on the early signs and symptoms of cancer. The National Develop[816] ment Plan 2007-2013 will also support the implementation of the Strategy including infrastructural investment in diagnostic equipment and facilities to support improved access by general practitioners.