1 Feb 2019

Cancer conference puts action plan in motion

11:30 am on 1 February 2019

A cancer action plan is in the works after a conference on cancer in Wellington highlighted major flaws in the public health system.

Blair Vining was diagnosed with bowel cancer late last October and will open a conference on cancer at Te Papa in Wellington today.

Blair Vining Photo: Facebook/Blair Vining’s Epic Journey

Blair Vining, a terminally ill cancer patient said he would have been dead if he were to rely on the public health system for an appointment.

"I got told I had six to eight weeks to live without treatment, and I got a letter in the mail saying I would be eight to 10 weeks on the waiting list," he said.

"If I'd gone public [health for treatment], I would have died before I had been seen."

Health Minister David Clark told Morning Report better cancer care and a national plan had been in discussions before this week's conference.

"The previous strategy expired a few weeks ago," he said.

"We're working with the sector. The latest data suggests we don't always have the consistency of care that we should have.

"My focus has been on equity across all diseases and NCDs which includes cancer."

Health Minister David Clark

Health Minister David Clark Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The minister said a workforce shortage was also a big issue in the industry.

Mr Vining's 13-hour wait for emergency surgery was "because there wasn't staff available at the time".

"We need to make sure we build up these workforces, that's why we've put more money into health."

Dr Clark wouldn't say how much money or resources would be allocated for a cancer care plan.

The Ministry of Health had a comprehensive programme of work underway to develop "people-centred standards of care" to support quality improvement across cancer care and treatment, he said.

In 2017, then Labour leader Andrew Little said his party would create a National Cancer Agency and a plan that would provide access to high quality of cancer care.

"We'll provide $10 million to establish the agency and another $10 million will be made available to get the work underway," he said at the time.

Ministry of Health chief executive Ashley Bloomfield said work on a plan starting this week will take into account how patients access care locally.

He said there would be an interim plan in place by June 2019, "so that we can get started in the next financial year, so that we can provide some guidance to district health boards and other key partners about those priority actions".

"We're looking to get on and move to action as quickly as possible."

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