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How to tackle the COVID-19 curveball in cancer care

Health & healthcare / POLICY BRIEF
Emma Woodford

Date: 04/02/2022
To battle Europe’s second-largest killer, the von der Leyen Commission proposed on World Cancer Day 2020 to create the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP). With a committed budget of €4 billion, it was the largest regional initiative on cancer undertaken by the EU institutions to date. Then COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works. Cancer services – from screening programmes to treatment centres and survivorship programmes – were temporarily stopped or heavily disrupted, creating disastrous effects.

The EBCP was adapted to deal with the new situation, but on closer examination of the issues caused by the pandemic, clearly more needs to be done to better support patients living with cancer and their families. 

This Policy Brief argues that to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 curveball in cancer care, the EU must not lose any time in implementing the EBCP. It should also urgently harness member states’ concerns to commit, beyond the newly invested EU4Health programme, to a deeper European Health Union. This should be empowered through 4 EU policy options to provide sustainable and effective protection for current and future cancer patients:

  1. protect and support the cancer care workforce by investing in training, remuneration and staff retention, and ensuring cross-border recognition of qualifications;
  2. design telemedicine in a way that works for everyone; 
  3. rebuild public trust in healthcare providers; 
  4. treat health as a long-term investment.
Through strong investment in both primary prevention and early detection, the EBCP has the potential to reduce the number of people developing cancer in the EU. Improving access to quality cancer care and cancer survivorship will improve treatment outcomes and the quality of life of people living with or who have survived cancer.

Read the full paper here.
Photo credits:
Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

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