Dáil Éireann - Volume 685 - 18 June, 2009

Written Answers. - Cancer Screening Programme.

Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the centralisation of cancer services to eight centres around the country; if she will confirm if the eight centres comply with the 48 recommendations for such centres to perform in an efficient and safe manner; if she will request a report and or audit to ensure that cancer services are being transferred in a safe and efficient manner to the proposed eight centres with the requisite resources, funding, consultants, staffing and beds to operate as a centre of excellence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24211/09]

  Deputy Mary Harney: Under the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), there are four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres. These centres were designated by the HSE following a recommendation from the advisory group set up under the NCCP. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate.

The transfer of breast cancer diagnosis and surgery into eight designated cancer centres is almost complete with only three hospitals, Tallaght, Sligo and South Infirmary, still awaiting the transfer of these services to a designated centre. The NCCP has at all times stated that it only transfers services when it is satisfied that adequate resources are in place. Services will transfer from Tallaght and Sligo within the next few months. The NCCP has set aside funding of €5 million from its capital allocation in 2009 to further support and develop the Cork University Hospital Cancer Centre (CUHCC). Services from South Infirmary will transfer to CUH when the refurbishment project is completed. Discussions are ongoing with each hospital in regard to the transfer.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) initiated a quality review of symptomatic breast cancer services in 2008. The overall objective of the review was to assess the performance of the designated cancer centres against the National Quality Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services and assist in devising an implementation plan for incremental progress to becoming specialist cancer centres by the end of 2009.

There are a number of phases in the process of meeting the entire range of standards involved. The first was a self-assessment completed and submitted by each individual hospital in Spring, 2008. The second phase involved an independent validation by HIQA, in October 2008, of the spring self-assessment process. In January 2009, HIQA issued individual interim reports to each of the designated centres. These were based on data from the self-assessments carried out in spring 2008 and were not an inspection of the status of the centres in October, 2008. The interim reports were copied to the CEO of the HSE, the Secretary General of my [349] Department and to the Interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in January 2009.

The interim reports provide the centres with details of the standards that are being met and of where gaps exist. Significant progress has been made by all of the designated cancer centres in addressing the gaps in systems and services. There is ongoing liaison also between the NCCP and HIQA about compliance with the standards.

The individual hospitals have prepared implementation plans in conjunction with the NCCP, which are now being implemented and monitored by the NCCP. A further inspection and assessment by HIQA is planned for the end of 2009, and these reports will be published.