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GP referrals to rapid access cancer clinics up 26% since 2019

Figures released by the Minister for Health show that the number of e-referrals made by GPs to Rapid Access Clinics (RACs) between January and August this year stands at 126% of the activity for the corresponding period in 2019.

The numbers were released to Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín TD, who asked a parliamentary question on the issue.

“The total number of GP e-referrals to RACs for January-August 2021 (37,680) stands at 126% of the activity for the corresponding period in 2019 (30,029),” Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said in his reply.

“The total number of patients seen across all RACs for January-August 2021 stands at 96.7% (32,818) of the corresponding period in 2019 (33,935).”

Deputy Tóibín said that increase in referrals were a “cause for concern,” and that not everyone who had been referred for rapid access had actually been seen in the system.

“Of the 37,000 people who had been referred by their GP to a Rapid Access Clinic, only 32,000 had actually been seen as of August 2021. I understand that as of August 5,000 people are still waiting to be seen,” he said.

He added that he believed that there was a “surge” coming in cancer diagnoses because of the government’s Covid lockdown and its impact on the HSE.

“I firmly believe that we have yet to see a surge in cancer diagnosis in this State due to the government’s decision to pause cancer screening and effectively shut much of our health service for much of the past two years,” he said.

“Many European countries have researched the effects of the health service shut down on the morbidity and mortality relating to non Covid illness. They did this to help them understand the best use of the health spend. But I am unaware of any such work by the Irish Government.”

He continued, saying that the government “can’t tell us the number of people who have had cancer diagnoses” in 2020 or 2021.

“They can’t tell us the number of hospital cancellations that happened this year or last year,” the Aontú leader said.

“The government are not operating on real time information. The government must provide a significant budget for the restoration of all cancer services to well beyond pre-pandemic capacity.”

Toibín concluded by highlighting the fact that, according to the HSE, 60,000 fewer women were screened by Cervical Check in 2020 than the previous year.

“These statistics are extremely worrying,” he said.

“There is not a family in Ireland which hasn’t been affected by cancer. To anyone out there who feels ill, who notices a lump or a bump, please don’t hang around wondering about it, get checked out immediately. Swift diagnosis and treatment is vital in our fight against cancer,” he conlcuded.

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