European Union of Private Hospitals

Private hospitals offer to collaborate with NHS to meet European mandate on cancer screening

The Spanish Private Healthcare Alliance (Alianza de la Sanidad Privada Española – ASPE) is offering to collaborate with the National Health System in order to achieve the number of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening tests indicated by the European Union and which oncology specialists warn will be extremely difficult to achieve under the current conditions of public healthcare.

The European Plan to Combat Cancer establishes that 90% of the population eligible for breast, cervical or colorectal cancer screening should have access to the programme by 2025. In addition, in September 2022, the European Commission introduced a new approach that aims to increase the reach of screening to more people and more types of cancer, including lung cancer, prostate cancer and, in certain circumstances, gastric cancer. The aim is to detect cancer at earlier stages, with better treatment options and a greater chance of cure.

However, oncology specialists have already warned that the figures set by Europe are unattainable in the current circumstances of public health, also taking into account that the implementation of screening programmes is uneven across Spain and that there is little adherence by the population, with the exception of breast cancer, which is better established and has greater participation by women.

In this sense, ASPE calls on the health authorities to use all the resources available in the National Health System, including those of private health provision, in order to comply with the European mandate, taking into account the special relevance of early detection of cancer in order to save lives.

The private hospital sector has 42% of the mammography machines in Spain, 52% of the MRIs and 32% of the CT scans, which can help in diagnosis. Currently, the private circuit already performs a significant number of preventive tests for breast, cervical and colon and rectal cancer, with the possibility of extending the execution of these tests, with the consequent relief for the public health system and the benefit it could bring to at-risk groups. Likewise, the contribution of private healthcare could be equally valuable for the early detection of lung cancer – the fourth most common cancer in Spain and the one that causes the most deaths, according to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology -, prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men, and gastric cancer, the fourth most lethal cancer in our country.

“As we did during the pandemic, making all the resources of the private healthcare system available to the National Health System to deal with the situation and as we have also proposed to lighten the waiting lists of the public health system, we now also offer our equipment and our specialists to comply with European guidelines and that the population benefits from an effective programme for the early detection of cancer,” says Carlos Rus, President of ASPE.

Most of the Autonomous Communities have cancer screening programmes in place, although the speed of implementation is uneven, as is the population’s adherence to such screening. However, in order to achieve the European objectives, it will be necessary to have more material resources and a greater number of professionals, for which collaboration with the health provision sector is once again proving to be an essential and effective instrument within the reach of the Spanish health authorities in order to comply with the European mandate, but above all with the well-being and health of the Spanish population.

“The European Commission estimates that, if appropriate measures are not taken, cancer cases will increase by 24% by 2035, making it the leading cause of death in the EU. Screening programmes and early detection can change this picture. It is essential to join forces to achieve this,” says Carlos Rus.

Acting jointly to tackle NHS problems

Faced with the urgent need to act in response to the worrying waiting lists for surgery and specialised care, several regional governments are relying on the infrastructure of private healthcare to try to reduce the record waiting times for care: Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Murcia, Andalusia, Madrid and Valencia have strengthened public-private collaboration to tackle this problem. ASPE considers it a responsible and appropriate action that the regional health managers are committed to having all the healthcare resources and infrastructures available in the different territories.

Article published on ASPE website