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Call for head and neck cancer designated centres

Plans to reconfigure the Hospital Groups could be delaying the designation of specialist centres for head and neck cancer surgery, according to the National Clinical Advisor for ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgery.

Head and neck cancer requires designated centres to improve patient access and outcomes, stated the recently-published Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery: A Model of Care for Ireland.

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) will decide the hub-and-spoke locations for head and neck cancer, as outlined in the model of care, according to Prof Michael Walsh, National Clinical Advisor for ENT to the National Clinical Programme in Surgery (NCPS).

Prof Walsh told the Medical Independent the NCCP had not yet designated sites and he was unsure when this would occur.

 “As far as we understand, they are holding back now because of the proposal to reconfigure the Hospital Groups. That will delay things further,” he said.

 “We are one of the few cancers that hasn’t been given designated centres, so we have no designated funding for head and neck cancer. It is essential of course. All these other cancers have been designated and have proven better outcomes and better patient access. We are recommending there should be four designated head and neck cancer units for the country. These centres will carry out complex care, where there is more than one surgical team involved, such as ear, nose and throat… facial surgery.”

By press time, the HSE had not commented on the designation of centres.

The plan for the centralisation of cancer surgery was due to have been completed by the end of March, according to the first implementation report on the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026, which was published in February.

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