Donnelly calls for action to prevent spike in cancer deaths

Published on: 07 May 2020

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly has said that immediate action is needed to prevent a surge in cancer fatalities in the coming months and years. His call comes after the HSE confirmed to him that the number of people being referred by GPs to Rapid Access Clinics has fallen by more than 50%.

Speaking after the briefing Deputy Donnelly said, “With the first wave of COVID-19 cases now hopefully subsiding there is quite rightly a lot of focus on how to prevent a second wave. We need just as much focus on preventing surges in non-COVID cases, including cancer.

“Cancer treatment services are continuing, with the HSE and our clinicians working hard to move care to private hospitals where possible. However, due to the pandemic, screening programmes have been paused, which will inevitably result in delays in detecting cancer for some people.

“At the same time, critically, the HSE confirmed to me that there has been a big fall in the number of people going to their GPs with suspicions regarding their own healthcare. This has resulted in a fall of more than 50% of GPs referring patients on for rapid assessment.

“A recent study in the UK estimates that cancer fatalities in England could rise by 20% in the next 12 months. GP referral rates have fallen even further in the UK than in Ireland. However, if Ireland did experience a 20% increase in cancer-related deaths, it would mean the loss of approximately 1,800 lives. This is significantly more than the total deaths to date from Covid-19.

“Ireland has a highly advanced screening service, and world-class cancer care, with fatality rates falling in recent years. It is essential that the screening services are opened up again as soon as possible, and we need to see a detailed plan for this immediately. It is also essential that the government launches a national campaign to encourage people to go to their GP if they’re concerned,” he concluded.

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