Shortage of cancer-care equipment in public hospitals
IRELAND is among 10 European countries without enough publicly funded radiotherapy machines to treat cancer patients.
A new study today estimates that, based on the machines in public hospitals, 772 Irish cancer patients, who make up 4pc of the 19,200 people prescribed radiotherapy annually, have an "unmet need".
The findings in The Lancet Oncology journal said the study of 33 countries shows that there are several countries in western Europe with too few radiotherapy machines to ensure that cancer patients get treatment.
It revealed wide disparities in access to radiotherapy services, patchy provision, unmet need, and unequal spending on resources in the European-wide study.
In Italy, around 16pc of need is unmet, in Portugal 19pc, Austria 20pc and the UK and Germany 21pc.
The authors pointed out however, that these apparent gaps in treatment supply may be compensated by more efficient organisation of radiotherapy provision.
A spokeswoman for the Irish cancer service said last night that it supplements the public hospital radiotherapy machines by buying services from the private sector in Waterford and Limerick.
''There are no waiting lists in any of the radiotherapy facilities. At present all patients who are prescribed radiotherapy following multi-disciplinary hospital discussion in a public facility, receive their treatment in a timely manner in the appropriate facility.''
The spokeswoman added: "As part of the HSE's capital plan, work is commencing on developing new radiotherapy facilities on the campuses of Cork and Galway University Hospitals, which will meet future demand. These new facilities should come on stream in 2016/17.''
The Lancet study said Nordic countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are well-equipped with radiotherapy machines to meet the demand for treatment.
Most countries in eastern and southeastern Europe are insufficiently equipped and have the greatest need to expand and modernise their equipment.
The authors emphasised that although their results do not prove whether differences in equipment and organisation have an effect on the patient's cancer outcome, they do warrant further investigation into how to optimise the efficiency of radiotherapy services.