NZ forms agency to tackle cancer


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The New Zealand Government has launched a Cancer Action Plan that includes establishing a new agency to make better cancer treatment more accessible for the public.

The Cancer Control Agency will be delivered by 1 December 2019, according to Health Minister David Clark, with the appointment of public health physician and cancer epidemiologist Professor Diana Sarfati as interim National Director of Cancer Control.

Aside from the new body, key actions of the 2019-2029 plan include more medicines for more people, a focus on prevention and screening, and the development of quality performance indicators for specific cancer types to improve equity of care.

Clarke said the latter is an “immediate priority” that will measure progress towards consistent care across the country’s district health boards.

“We are also combining the four current regional cancer control networks into a National Network to help remove regional variations in care,” he added.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the current standard of care is variable, so work must be done to ensure better outcomes for Māori and Pacific people.

“Cancer touches just about every one of us at some stage in our lives. On average 66 people every day are diagnosed with cancer — and they deserve world-class care,” she said.

While improving survival rates is a long-term challenge, there are several things that can be done immediately, according to Ardern, including an extra $60 million in funding for PHARMAC — the agency that decides which medicines and medical devices receive funding.

“The first step was the announcement earlier this month of funding for 12 new Linear Accelerators for radiation treatment, including plans to put machines into Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Northland for the first time,” she said.

“From next year, PHARMAC will also speed up its decision making by considering applications for funding at the same time as Medsafe assesses the safety of new medicines rather than waiting until that work is complete as it does currently. Work on options for early access to new cancer medicines is also progressing well.”

While implementation of the plan has begun, health professionals and the public can give feedback on the plan before it is finalised next year.

The number one focus, Clarke added, is improving outcomes for all New Zealanders.

“This is a comprehensive 10-year plan that covers the full spectrum of cancer control, from prevention and screening to treatment and palliative care. It looks at workforce issues, research and data collection — all of which are critical to the delivery of successful services,” he said.

“We want to see fewer cancers, earlier detection and better treatment for everyone living with cancer.”

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