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Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group Annual Meeting

Jo Goodhew
Associate Minister of Health

27 February, 2013

Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group Annual Scientific Meeting

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Welcome to you all to this, the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group. Thank you to the Convenors, Dr Ziad Thotathil and Dr Carol Johnson, for inviting me to open your meeting today.

I would like to acknowledge all members of TROG, as I understand you are known, and particularly your guest speakers Professors Suresh Senan, David Ball, Gillian Duchesne, David Lamb and Chris Atkinson, and Miriam Dwyer.

I would also like to acknowledge the Chair of TROG, Associate Professor Brian Burmeister, and those of you who have travelled from overseas for this meeting. Welcome to New Zealand.

I am sure your New Zealand colleagues and the people of Wellington will provide all of you attending this meeting with a very warm welcome.

I believe that your research into radiotherapy treatment is hugely important in the continuing improvement of available treatments and outcomes for people with cancer.

Helping identify what does and doesn’t work informs health policy and funding decisions. Meetings such as this are critical to ensuring that research is targeted to the most relevant areas and that there is a strong evidence base for cancer treatment.

The Government has a strong focus on improving cancer services for people with cancer. We want all people to easily access the best services, in a timely way, to improve overall cancer outcomes.

Key areas of work that contribute to this improvement during the 2012/13 year include:

• maintaining the achievement of the cancer treatment health target which focuses on chemotherapy and radiotherapy services;
• the faster cancer treatment programme which is aimed at ensuring timely access to high quality diagnostic and secondary care services;
• implementing a new model of care for medical oncology; and
• national service planning for radiation oncology services.

I know that many of the New Zealand attendees here today will be contributing to these initiatives. I also know that many of you from Australia will share your experiences and learnings from undertaking similar initiatives.

Improving access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer is one of the Government’s priority areas. Achievement of our Health Target for shorter waits for cancer treatment is a key measure of how services are performing for patients.

The cancer treatment target expects that all patients ready for treatment receive radiotherapy or chemotherapy within four weeks. Chemotherapy was introduced to the existing cancer treatment target on 1 July 2012. Previously it had been only radiation oncology for several years.

This Government has seen waiting times for radiation treatment reduce from up to 18 weeks to a maximum of four weeks since 2008 as a result of this target being implemented and a lot of hard work from the sector.

To support continued achievement of the cancer treatment target the Ministry of Health is undertaking the development of new models of care for medical oncology. The Medical Oncology Models of Care work is aimed at developing sufficient resources and ways of caring for people to enable high quality services to be sustainably provided in the future. A Medical Oncology National Implementation Plan 2012/2013 was published in September 2012 and outlines the priority activities for implementing a new medical oncology model of care.

The Ministry is also undertaking work to develop a National Radiation Oncology Plan. The Plan will provide advice to district health boards on how to ensure there is an appropriately skilled workforce and sufficient linear accelerators and other equipment for future radiotherapy service delivery.

The Government allocated $33 million over four years in the 2012 budget to implement the faster cancer treatment programme. This programme takes a patient pathway approach that covers surgical and non-surgical cancer treatment. It includes the development of standards of service provision for eight of the more common tumour types to promote uniform service provision across New Zealand.

The project also includes the establishment of cancer nurse coordinator positions to improve patient outcomes by coordinating care for patients with cancer, and facilitate timely diagnosis and initiation of treatment. Australian experts were invited to New Zealand to share their experiences during the development of the cancer nurse coordinator positions.

The Ministry has supported research in cancer by forming a partnership with the Health Research Council in 2011. The Health Research Council is now responsible for three research projects in the areas of prostate cancer, bowel cancer, and palliative care. These projects run over three years and are due to finish in 2014.

When I was nursing patients with cancer, in the 1980s and through my practice nursing career which ended in the late 1990s, I didn’t dream that cancer diagnosis, treatment and care would look like it does now. Governments can seek guidance from clinicians in setting challenging targets for delivering diagnoses, treatment and care. But they do so when researchers have been able to inform clinicians of the scientifically valid way forward. I thank you all for your part in this collaborative work.

I trust you have a very productive meeting and wish you well for your important work in improving services for people with cancer. I hope you enjoy all that our capital city has to offer during your stay.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

ENDS

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