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Outsourcing continuing due to deficits within radiation oncology services

By Paul Mulholland - 09th Jun 2023

Capacity and staffing deficits within radiation oncology services were continuing to impact on the achievement of key performance indicators (KPIs), the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) executive management team heard in March.

As a result of these deficits, outsourcing arrangements to private facilities remained necessary, according to minutes of the meeting.

The NCCP meeting in March also heard that the Covid-19 management capacity plan would be re-introduced to improve KPIs.

In relation to the overall deficits, the minutes stated options were “being explored to mitigate” the impact on services.

A HSE spokesperson told MI that the HSE and NCCP are “very aware of the challenges” within radiation oncology services across Ireland.

The spokesperson said that regular meetings are taking place to discuss the mitigation needed to ensure patients are treated in a timely way.

“Part of the bi-monthly discussion is the management of capacity in each of the units,” according to the spokesperson.

“Outsourcing arrangements are in place with private radiotherapy centres to ensure patients are treated as needed.”

To mitigate the vacancies in radiation therapists in the short-term, the spokesperson said all public radiotherapy services in Ireland “have offered additional hours” to staff, outside of normal service, to enable patients to be seen within recommended timelines.

A national review of radiation therapists, with representatives from SIPTU, Department of Health, the NCCP and the radiation oncology service, commenced in November 2022 to address the longer-term challenge.

“The primary aim is to develop a more attractive career structure for radiation therapists in Ireland, with changes proposed as part of a retention strategy for the profession,” according to the spokesperson.

They added that, since March, KPIs are improving in Cork and Galway University Hospitals and “we hope to see an upward trend across the system in the coming months”.

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