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Saolta not yet allocated additional cancer posts for 2024

By Catherine Reilly - 22nd Apr 2024

saolta

None of the 38 posts requested by the cancer programme at Saolta University Health Care Group for 2024 have been funded to date, the Medical Independent (MI) understands.

Saolta’s Cancer Managed Clinical and Academic Network (MCAN) made a sub- mission to the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) for new posts to support existing levels of service, the further development of services, and development of key strategic areas in line with the national cancer strategy.

The submission, dated December 2023, included requests for a consultant general and colorectal surgeon for robotic surgery at Galway University Hospitals (GUH); an advanced nurse practitioner in medical oncology to “meet the growing caseload” of patients at Sligo University Hospital; a senior medical social worker for Letterkenny University Hospital, where there is “no oncology social worker to support cancer patients”; a chief II pharmacist to strength- en governance in the “busy” pharmacy aseptic services unit at Mayo University Hospital; and a clinical nurse specialist in palliative care to support patients at Portiuncula University Hospital.

Twenty-two of the 38 requested posts were newly submitted and the remainder had previously been sought under the 2022 or 2023 national service plan processes (or in both years). The submission was obtained by MI under Freedom of Information law.

The Saolta region includes some of the most rural and deprived areas nationally. The submission noted that deprivation impacts on cancer incidence, stage at diagnosis, and outcomes, as it does with other diseases.

“The population of the Saolta region currently has the lowest survival rates in Ireland for common cancers including colon and prostate cancer and the highest rate of prostate cancer patients nationally.”

It stated that “major challenges” existed in the delivery of cancer care in the west/north-west including patient access, diagnostics, limited development capacity and existing infrastructure, an ageing and dispersed population, and ever-growing demand.

The development of a dedicated cancer centre at GUH and investment in ambulatory cancer centres at the Group’s model 3 hospitals is included in the National Development Plan 2021-2030 and is “being progressed by the Saolta executive and the Saolta Cancer MCAN”.

A Saolta spokesperson said the NCCP “has always supported and continues to support” its cancer programme. “The NCCP remains the main funding source for all cancer developments. We have not been allocated any additional posts to support cancer service delivery in the 2024 service plan at this point in time. There are a few cancer posts currently on hold as a result of the current recruitment pause in the HSE.”

The spokesperson said the strategic assessment report for the cancer centre and ward block infrastructural requirements at GUH was submitted to the HSE in Au- gust 2022 and is with the Department of Health for approval.

A new radiation oncology centre opened at GUH last year and Saolta is continuing to progress through the accreditation process of the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes.

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