Transforming Psycho-Oncology and Survivorship Services in Ireland: HSE National Cancer Control Programme looks ahead to the next decade


New Model of Care for Psycho-Oncology Launched Today 

Other key developments include Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres, Peer Review Pilot Evaluation Report and Alliance of Community Cancer Support Centres & Services 

Today (Monday, 16th May 2022) the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) launches the Model of Care for Psycho-Oncology. Psycho-Oncology refers to the provision of psychological and psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families at all points in the cancer journey.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Helen Greally, National Clinical Programme Lead in Psycho-Oncology, HSE NCCP said: “Over the last three years, we have put the pillars in place to create an integrated circular patient pathway which will address cancer patients’ psychosocial needs both in the hospital and community setting. This will greatly enhance the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.  It aims to promote psychological wellbeing and improve access to psychological services at both acute hospital and community level. It provides a framework to support the way psychosocial care is offered to patients and their families.”

The new Model of Care details how psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families will be developed in Ireland over the next number of years, including:

  • Further development of Psycho-Oncology Multi-Disciplinary Teams in each cancer centre, including Children’s Health Ireland, Crumlin - the allocation of hospital-based Psycho-Oncology posts has increased by 160%, from 16 posts in 2019 to 42 today.
  • The recommendation of routine screening for distress for patients with cancer, as well as on-going assessment along the cancer care continuum in recognition of changing needs as they transition through the various stages of their cancer journey.
  • The establishment of a referral pathway. A patient pathway with clear onward referral from hospital to primary care and community cancer support centres is one of the pillars of a comprehensive psychosocial support service for patients and their families - the main focus of the Model of Care is the development of seamless transitions in support between hospitals and the community.
  • The enhancement of community services, in a co-ordinated and integrated manner, to complement and work alongside acute services.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said: “The Model of Care for Psycho-Oncology is very much focused on the Sláintecare model of the right care, in the right place at the right time. It has been developed by NCCP in conjunction with a multidisciplinary working group including patient and family advocates. It is based on international best practice and draws upon the recommendations of the current National Cancer Strategy and the NCCP National Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment.”

Sinead Quinn, Service User Representative on the Model of Care for Psycho-Oncology Working Group said: “This is a very significant milestone for cancer patients and their families as it formally reconceptualises and broadens cancer care to include the critical areas of the patients' psychological health and well-being. As a family member significantly impacted by cancer myself, I am acutely aware of how cancer can impact the emotional world of the person affected and their family, sometimes to a traumatising extent.

“This Model of Care recognises that this significant aspect of the cancer experience also needs to be addressed and that cancer care and cancer services need to provide care for both body and mind, thereby providing the holistic and integrated care that patients and their families need.

To my mind this Model of Care puts this critical dimension of psychological health and wellbeing front and central in the development of cancer services and cancer care going forward. If you or a family member are currently impacted by cancer, please be aware that cancer services now aim to both support your psychological wellbeing and to provide appropriate support if you are experiencing distress. Your team can help with available supports so please be open with them about your needs.”

Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres & Peer Review Pilot Evaluation Report were also launched today.

Dr Helen Greally said: “The NCCP Best Practice Guidance provides a set of operational standards for Cancer Support Centres and aims to facilitate the establishment of a Psycho-Oncology patient pathway. The Best Practice Guidance is applicable to all Cancer Support Centres countrywide and we would encourage centres to participate in the self-assessment and peer review process.”

“Assessing against these recommendations forms the foundation for support centres to improve the quality of the services they offer and build credibility across the sector and among health professionals.”

A Peer Review Pilot was conducted with 10 Cancer Support Centres in 2021, the results of which have been published in an Evaluation Report (O’Loughlin et al., 2022). The aim of the pilot was to standardise best practise across the country and establish an external peer review process and to evaluate whether this method of external validation of the self-assessment process would work in the Irish context. It will also provide a level of assurance to each centre, and to the public, that the service they are providing is reaching a recognised standard.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said: “Community Cancer Support Centres are vital in providing a comprehensive psychological support service for patients with cancer and their families. They fill a significant gap in services throughout the country.”

“Best Practice Guidance will provide assurance that safe and quality services are provided by Community Cancer Support Centres to an agreed standard.”

The Alliance of Community Cancer Support Centres and Services (The Alliance) is a new initiative which aims to develop a collaborative framework for community-based cancer support centres and services.  The Alliance aims to establish and grow a forum for the development of community-led support which includes opportunities for information and education, collaboration and networking among its members.  It will advocate for and support the development of integrated pathways and facilitate cancer support centres and services working to the agreed standards as outlined in the Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres.

For further information on these developments please see

Last updated on: 16 / 05 / 2022