The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) is currently progressing the centralisation of surgical services for skull-based cancers, the Medical Independent has been informed.
An NCCP spokesperson said skull-based cancers were a “specialised complex subset of head and neck cancers” and that the Programme was “engaging closely with clinicians” to achieve surgical centralisation.
According to Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery: A Model of Care for Ireland, which was published in 2019, head and neck cancer requires designated centres to improve patient access and outcomes.
The NCCP was to decide the ‘hub-and-spoke’ locations for head and neck cancer surgery as outlined in the model of care.
However, the spokesperson admitted this work was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic necessitated that strategic changes regarding centralisation should be deferred in light of the emerging health crisis and its impact on all cancer surgeries,” according to the spokesperson.
“This was especially the case regarding head and neck surgery as Covid-19 involved the respiratory airways and compromised even the diagnostic pathways for these patients.”
The spokesperson noted the NCCP has recently supported head and neck services with investment in terms of equipment and personnel.
“The NCCP is continuing to engage with clinical leads and hospitals’ management to further progress surgical centralisation for the broader head and neck cancers in the near future,” the spokesperson said.
World Head and Neck Cancer Day takes place on 27 July. Globally, there are over 500,000 cases and 200,000 head and neck cancer-related deaths every year.