On Monday 30 May 2016, The Ministry of Public Health organized the National Cancer Strategy 2011-2016 Deliberative Forum, in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation and Primary Healthcare Corporation. Her Excellency Dr. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, attended the forum, as well as senior officials and leading experts in the health sector, and representatives from the Qatar Cancer Society, along with patients who have been treated in Qatar and members of voluntary organizations with an interest in cancer care.
Highlights from the last five years include; a cancer public education and awareness program; the introductions of new roles in cancer care, such as patient pathway coordinators and clinical nurse specialists, aimed at improving patient outcomes and experience; population-based screening for breast and bowel cancer; the development of an urgent suspected cancer referral pathway that sees the vast majority of patients have their first appointment at HMC within 48 hours of referral from PHCC; and the opening of a palliative care unit at the NCCCR. In addition, several new cancer services have been developed, using advanced treatment and diagnostic technologies, such as; the Hamad PET CT Center; NCCCR’s CyberKnife; adaptive brachytherapy to treat cervical cancers; MR-Guided Focused Ultra Sound to treat bone metastases; and the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Program, currently being used to provide autologous transplants to patients with hematological cancers, but the possibilities for development are significant.
Her Excellency Dr. Hanan was delighted with the success of the National Cancer Strategy 2011–2016. “Over the last five years there have been monumental changes in the way cancer is identified, diagnosed and treated in the State of Qatar. Patients are now able to be treated in Qatar by leading specialists, using world-class treatment techniques and technologies. We must continue to evolve and develop, in line with international best practice and benchmarking ourselves against the very best in the world. There is still work to be done in supporting the public to recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer, and we must continue to invest in cancer research so the best possible treatments are available to our population.”
At the forum, there were panel discussions with representatives from across the cancer care continuum, including patients. Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, leading cancer surgeon and Chair of the National Cancer Committee, played a key role in the event. He was very proud of the work done by everyone to achieve so much in just five years. “The growth and development in processes and pathways for cancer have been exceptional.” He said. “This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of all those represented at this event this evening. All the stakeholders in cancer care came together over the last five years to bring about a huge change program and they committed time, resources and their passion to the common goal of improving the outcomes and experiences of cancer patients in Qatar. This is a rare thing to see anywhere in the world and the State of Qatar should be very proud of their achievements. Looking forward, the future is bright. The same level of dedication to our goals exists and I believe cancer care in Qatar could very soon be world-leading—a beacon for others.”
Dr. Mariam AbdulMalik, Managing Director of PHCC, was also present at the event. “For PHCC, a key area is the continued development of the screening program for the State of Qatar. We want to ensure everyone who is offered screening takes it up, and that we are able to catch cancer earlier. There is still some public education required to make this a reality and we have been working ceaselessly at raising awareness about breast and bowel cancer and the life-saving benefits of early screening. Such progress includes the launch of new initiatives coupled with events and activities to reach out to a wider audience. The deployment of our Mobile Screening Unit intensifies these efforts. Our goal is to promote community-based care with a view to help save the lives of families and loved ones and connect more effectively with the public, and this was the purpose of our panel discussion”.
The second panel of the forum looked at quality and innovation in patient care and discussed continued developments and improvements to ensure the very best care to patients in Qatar. Dr. Al Hareth Al Khater, Assistant Chairman for Hematology and Oncology at the NCCCR, HMC, said that patients speak to him about the quality of care they receive. “I have really noticed an increase in overall patient satisfaction at Hamad in the last five years and, at NCCCR, we have also started to measure this on a consistent basis to ensure we continue to meet our patients’ needs. The progress that has been made in cancer care over the course of the 2011-2016 strategy is phenomenal and we are very proud of the quality of care and services we can offer at the NCCCR. People from all over the organization have contributed to getting us to where we are today — it has been a whole multi-disciplinary team effort.”
The outcomes from the forum, along with the reflections on the 2011-2016 strategy and input from across the healthcare sector, will now be used to develop a framework for the next five years (2017-2022) to continue to build on the good work that has already taken place.