A population-based capacity needs assessment is required for cancer services, the Director of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) has informed senior healthcare management.
In his email on 28 April, Prof Risteárd Ó Laoide advised the HSE’s Chief Strategy Officer Mr Dean Sullivan: “The aim would be to identify current capacity, align this with the planning already underway for national, supraregional and regional cancer care to support the implementation of the RHAs [regional health areas] and identify infrastructure gaps that can then be prioritised.”
He added: “This type of approach would also provide us, collectively, with a framework against which to evaluate current proposals for cancer infrastructure as well as forward planning for future requirements.”
In the email, obtained under Freedom of Information law, Prof Ó Laoide also queried whether the current framework for external support in health planning could be utilised for such a capacity analysis.
The HSE is receiving external support to assess the existing estate to inform the prioritisation of future capital investments. Assessments in relation to acute and mental health services have commenced.
Responding on 30 April, Mr Sullivan stated he would be “supportive in principle of such an approach in relation to cancer services”.
However, he added that “we will need to think through the practicalities, particularly in terms of headroom in the existing support contract”.
Regarding the assessments of the acute and mental health sectors, Mr Sullivan said the initial phase was examining the estates’ fitness for purpose. The second phase would assess whether the estates would have sufficient capacity if brought up to the necessary standards.
Mr Sullivan said he hoped the second phase would be informed by the assessment of the Health Service Capacity Review 2018, which is taking place this year.
However, he explained “this is likely to be too late” to make the case to the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform for a “significant uplift” in the capital budget.
“So we will need to do some sort of high-level, population-based assessment along the lines you suggest,” outlined Mr Sullivan.