ARC Cancer Support Centres Welcomes Publication of
National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 —
Calls for Clear Commitment to Resourcing &
Implementation of Psycho-Oncology Recommendations

- Strategy recommends introduction of survivorship care pathways and follow-up care plans for patients, as well the development of survivorship programmes and structures for patient involvement -

Date of issue: July 5, 2017
ARC Cancer Support Centres has today welcomed the publication of the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 but urged Government to commit the appropriate resources to ensure the speedy implementation of its recommendations.

ARC, which operates two Drop-in Centres on Dublin's Northside and Southside, provides psychological support, complementary therapy, and counselling services to people with cancer and their loved ones completely free of charge.

There has been significant year-on-year growth in demand for ARC’s services in recent years. In 2016, there was a total of 15,525 visits to ARC (including 4,272 one-to-one visits and 7,843 group session visits), an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year. A total of 2,279 people availed of services at both the Eccles Street and South Circular Road centres.

Standing Still Not an Option
ARC Cancer Support Centres was represented on the Strategy's Steering Group and Patient Forum and contributed to its formulation. Deirdre Grant, CEO of ARC Cancer Support Centres, welcomed its publication and urged that its recommendations be acted upon as a matter of urgency:
"We know that when people receive psychosocial support in the right place at the right time, their quality of life is improved, they are less likely to be re-admitted to acute hospitals for care, more likely to participate in full and active lives and, in many cases, to return to work.

"As part of the public consultation phase of the Strategy, patients and families identified a number of issues of concern. These included the need for local support services and centres to be linked with medical departments, the need for communication and integration between services along the patient pathway, and the need for psychosocial services across the cancer continuum. They also highlighted the financial burdens associated with a cancer diagnosis and the need for financial support.

"We particularly welcome the recommendation on working in conjunction with cancer support centres to conduct a Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment to put in place a suitable model of survivorship healthcare, and to develop and implement survivorship programmes for patients. For more than 20 years, ARC Cancer Support Centres have been leaders in the field and have extensive experience of delivering such programmes. Every day, we see and hear first-hand how vital these are in addressing the psychological, physical and social factors that affect people's health and well-being, and in ensuring that they achieve the best possible health outcomes. ARC is committed to playing its part in delivering on the strategy’s recommendations in this area and will continue to innovate and to expand its psychosocial and survivorship programmes accordingly.

"While access within designated cancer centres to dedicated psycho-oncology services was previously recommended in the 2006 Strategy, it is an area that has only been partially addressed. Therefore, it is vital that a comprehensive psycho-oncology and psychosocial support service plan is prioritised for early implementation in conjunction with the voluntary sector. Regular monitoring of psychosocial distress along all stages of the patient’s journey, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond, should be undertaken as a matter of course in ensuring that we respond appropriately and provide people with the supports that they need, when they need them. Following the invaluable contribution by the Patient Forum in this strategy, we welcome the continued input and involvement of patients through the establishment of a much-needed Patient Advisory Committee for cancer services.

"There are currently more than 150,000 cancer survivors in Ireland, with more and more people surviving cancer than ever before. The trend, thankfully, is continuing upward. Approximately 20-30% of people with cancer will develop some form of psychological disorder following a diagnosis, including in the survivorship phase. Yet only a fraction of people who are diagnosed with cancer and their families are aware of, and are able to access, the free services provided by cancer support centres like ARC.

"Every person diagnosed with cancer should have timely signposting and access to quality psycho-oncology services in hospitals and in the community, irrespective of their means or geographic location, giving them one less thing to worry about. With a projected doubling of the number of cancer diagnoses by 2040, we need to meet not only the needs of people today who are being diagnosed with cancer but also to plan ahead for future survivors. Standing still is clearly not an option."

View the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 here.

"The reflexology was a great comfort and I really enjoyed the hours for myself in trying times."

Angela - ARC client

"I'm back at work, going running and taking a bit more time for myself. I am just getting on with life."

Gemma - ARC client

"Cancer touches everyone's life and volunteering with ARC creates a positive mindset from which many things are possible."

Edel O'Leary - Head of Marketing, Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd

"ARC supported me and my partner in my hour of need. I now just want to give something back."

Elizabeth - ARC volunteer

"To everyone at ARC - for being the essence of human kindness and compassion; for giving me a sense of sanity in a world that had fallen apart."

Mary - Counselling

"ARC is such a very special, beautiful place and a joy to enter every time. It is a privilege to be met by such wonderful and committed people...this dedication and support and love is not, or could ever be, taken for granted."

Geraldine - Relaxation and Visualisation