The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to the operation of the health system, highlighting key capacity challenges across the system. Government has therefore made available a similarly unprecedented level of investment for 2021, targeted at supporting the resilience and preparedness of the health service, increasing capacity including in primary and community settings in support of the Slaintecare vision of care provided at the lowest possible level of complexity. Funding of €240m has been provided in Budget 2021 to fund access to care, for provision of treatment in both private and public hospitals to address capacity issues and waiting lists.
In regard to cancer specifically, the National Action Plan on Covid-19 identified the continued provision of cancer care as a priority. Cancer services continue to operate in line with guidance issued by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP). My Department and the NCCP are working to ensure the continued provision of cancer services where safe and appropriate, engaging with hospital management and staff. GP referrals to cancer diagnostic services will continue to be accepted. Medical and radiation oncology services continue. Particular emphasis is being placed on ensuring that all time-dependent cancer surgeries are continued, much of them in private hospitals. Trends in numbers coming forward to diagnostic services, and the level of attendances for appointments for treatment, are being monitored closely.
Funding of €12m was allocated specifically for the restoration of cancer services in the context of COVID-19 in Budget 2021. This funding is being used to support diagnostic services, virtual clinics and triage, organisation of treatment services, minor capital works and psycho-social supports. A further €20m has been allocated for the continued implementation of the National Cancer Strategy this year. This funding will facilitate developments across prevention, diagnosis, treatment and patient supports.