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This conference was focused on next steps for cancer care and its provision in Northern Ireland.
It brought stakeholders together with policymakers to examine priorities for diagnostics, service delivery, timely access to care and improving outcomes.
The conference was an opportunity to discuss the way forward for delivery following recommendations laid out in the Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland 2022-2032 for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, support for those affected by cancer, end of life care, and implementation of the strategy.
Delegates examined the current state of cancer services in Northern Ireland, as well as long-term goals for earlier diagnosis, addressing inequalities in access to care, and improving cancer prevention strategies.
There was discussion on priorities for addressing cancer waiting times, with reports earlier in the year indicating that those in Northern Ireland were the worst on record.
Delegates assessed priorities for the cancer workforce, with a focus on recruitment and retention, safe staffing levels, and training needs.
Further sessions assessed progress in the development of innovative approaches to treatment and early detection.
The agenda also looked at next steps for cross-border collaboration in cancer research and the role this can play in improving service provision, looking at the work of the All-Island Cancer Research Institute and the newly established All-Ireland Cancer Network.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with: Tomas Adell, Director of Elective Care and Cancer Policy, Department of Health; Professor William Gallagher and Professor Mark Lawler, Co-Chairs of the All-Island Cancer Research Institute; and Gerry Hanna, Chair of Division for Cancer and Specialist Medicine, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Overall, areas for discussion included:
- Policy priorities in Northern Ireland: progress on the implementation of A Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland - key funding priorities for strategy implementation - aligning with wider health policy
- Developing service provision: strategies for addressing high waiting times - improving and streamlining pathways - providing physical and psychological support to patients - options for prehabilitation
- Cancer workforce: priorities for staffing, recruitment and retention - next steps for workforce support - skills development and training
- Diagnosis: building on the introduction of centralised diagnostic hubs - reducing late-stage diagnosis - potential for specialist integrated haematological diagnostics service
- Improving outcomes: resourcing and funding priorities to improve access to high quality treatment
- Cancer R&I: establishing an all-island approach to research and innovation - priorities for research funding - developing innovative approaches - improving participation in clinical research and trials
- Addressing health inequalities: communication and service provision in areas of deprivation - impact of COVID-19 - fostering a cross-departmental approach to tackling health inequalities
- Prevention: developing effective awareness strategies - addressing cancer risk factors and encouraging healthier lifestyle choices - recommendations of the UK National Screening Committee
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the Department of Health, NI; Department of Health, ROI; the Oireachtas; and The Scottish Government.