A 15-member Cancer Patient Advisory Committee is to play an active role in overseeing the planning and deliver of cancer services in Ireland. In what is a first for Irish healthcare, the group met this month and is expected to hold quarterly meetings.

Committee members were selected from a panel that includes representatives of the Irish Cancer Society, Ireland’s National Cancer Control Programme, the Department of Health, and the Cancer Patient Forum. It includes members from across the country, including from remote areas where patients may face unique challenges in accessing care.

The now-defunct Cancer Patient Forum was involved in drafting Ireland’s National Cancer Strategy (2017-2026) which recommended the establishment of a diverse Cancer Patient Advisory Committee with a formal consultative role in shaping cancer services.

‘There was a hugely positive reaction to the work of the Cancer Patient Forum in the development of the National Cancer Strategy,’ said Irish Health Minister, Simon Harris. ‘I envision the Committee building on the work of the Forum and facilitating patient input into the oversight of the implementation of the Strategy.’

According to the Health Minister patient involvement will ensure the National Cancer Strategy is implemented in a way that benefits people with cancer. ‘Patient involvement is essential to the development of health services to meet the needs of patients and the establishment of the Cancer Patient Advisory Committee is a significant advance in this approach,’ he said.

Mairead Mangan, a member of the new Cancer Patient Advisory Committee, said patients would now be an integral part of cancer care, ensuring that patient voices are heard by decision-makers and highlighting the need for better support for cancer survivors.

Cancer patients are in a position to provide a unique perspective on the development of cancer services at local, regional and national level,’ she commented. ‘In this regard I welcome the development of the Committee which will continue the work initiated by the Cancer Patient Forum.’

The move reflects a broader trend towards involving patients in overseeing how health services are developed and delivered. Recently, at EU level, 24 Patient Advisory Groups were established to work with the European Reference Networks on rare diseases.

At European and national level, and at every stage of medicines development and healthcare delivery, the patient voice is being given a more formal role.