Covid has thrown some challenges out for Cancer Australia in its quest for the nation’s first 10-year national cancer plan.
Covid has thrown some challenges out for Cancer Australia in its quest for the nation’s first 10-year national cancer plan – and the pandemic will likely have a starring role in the final document.
Submissions for the plan were due to close this month, but Cancer Australia CEO Professor Dorothy Keefe told Oncology Republic that the closing date had been extended to 4 March, to give individuals and organisations more time to share their thoughts.
“We did give people two months (the consultation period started late last year) but it was over Christmas and covid has made it difficult for some organisations with staff away, so we thought we would extend it by a couple of weeks,” she said. “We want to hear from everybody.”
However, Professor Keefe said they had not put the plan on ice while waiting for submissions – a senior advisory group has been set up and met for the first time in December.
“Every time you have a meeting somebody comes up with another piece of gold,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”
In April last year, Cancer Australia hosted a ministerial roundtable at Parliament House in Canberra, which proved a challenge in the covid landscape, Professor Keefe said.
Some 80 leading experts representing consumers, national clinical organisations, peak cancer and health groups, government representatives joined Cancer Australia representatives and staff at the meeting.
Professor Keefe said there was strong support for the plan to set key national cancer priorities and action areas across the cancer continuum, with an emphasis on equitable access to screening and treatment around Australia, and across all population groups.
Rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are at particular disadvantage when it comes to cancer care and outcomes, and she said the plan would address this.
“We’ve got among the best cancer outcomes in the world, but 30-plus% of patients still die of their cancers,” she said. “The whole plan is concentrated on leaving nobody.”
Other priorities on the table include support for patients across primary, secondary and tertiary health care settings as well as private and public systems; improving access to new cancer therapies and treatments; supporting primary care providers in early cancer detection; building the cancer literacy of all Australians; building sustainable palliative care community services to prove equitable access; supporting priority driven national research funding, including increased equity of access to cancer clinical trials; and planning future workforce capacity and capability requirements, including addressing current and future skills shortages and consideration of the need for a national cancer workforce strategy.
Professor Keefe said covid was also expected to feature prominently in the plan, particularly when planning for the possibility of future pandemics.
“Covid is probably the biggest single disruptor in the cancer ecosystem that we’ve had for years,” she said.
Covid had affected countless patients through delayed diagnosis, access to care and treatment, and only time would tell what the long-term effects will be.
“We would be extremely foolish not to have the covid lens, or pandemic lens over what we do here,” Professor Keefe said. “The plan has got bigger because of covid.”
She said she was confident they would receive a broad spectrum of submissions, although she pointed out this would not be the only time for people to have their say.
“I was hopeful that we would get a long way with this, I’m delighted that we are getting a long way with this,” she said.
The Australian Cancer Plan will include two, five and 10-year priorities and goals, and will be designed for use by governments, policy makers, service planners, cancer organisations and research funders. Professor Keefe said it would sit alongside existing state and territory cancer plans and other health and social care strategies, plans and frameworks.
Cancer Australia will deliver the Australian Cancer Plan to the Minister for Health and Aged Care in April 2023. For more information about the plan and how to make a submission, see here.