Looking back to this period marked by hardship, limitations and fear, we realise that the COVID-19 emergency has challenged our health care systems like never before, putting our resilience to test every day.
However, positivity must be sought even in the darkest of times and we are proud to say that this has also been a time when all the health care workers across the wide OECI network cooperated tirelessly.
The emergency found our professionals treating and comforting patients away from their families; hospital managers struggling to find an innovative “antidote” to the overall chaos; scientists, clinicians and administrators working remotely, implementing telemedicine, launching remote training programmes and interacting virtually.
In the same positive spirit, in 2021 the European Commission launched many exciting initiatives such as Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, structured around 10 flagship initiatives, and earmarking some €4 billion for actions addressing prevention; early detection; diagnosis; treatment and quality of life.
The Plan posits creating a European Infrastructure of national cancer centres whose features are yet to be identified. Such features should likely align with the criteria OECI has already identified within the framework of the A&D Programme, which constitutes the only pan-European certification body to accredit a cancer centre.
If, similarly to the European Reference Networks, the national government shall be tasked to identify the entities to be included in the constitution of a European Cancer Centres Infrastructure, the risk to create a heterogeneous network, based on criteria that may not align with the bold objectives of the Plan must be taken into account.
The Cancer Plan is linked to another initiative of the European Commission for a strong European Health Union - Horizon Europe, EU’s key funding Programme for R&D. With a budget of €95.5 billion, this objective-driven Research Framework Programme grants support for innovation, a new approach to partnerships, an open science policy and five main Missions to achieve within a set timeframe. Cancer is one of them.
OECI - a strong network reuniting 108 of the most prominent European Cancer Centres – operates on principles of transparency, meritocracy and financial autonomy, since it is ran exclusively on its Members’ contribution. The OECI Community comes together to embody a joint ambition: implementing access to cutting-edge solutions directly to our patients’ ward thus granting our patients access to the best available treatment solutions.
In a truly European spirit, OECI supports creating and better disseminating excellent knowledge and technologies. It follows that the European cancer Community moved forwards with devising a number of strategic actions shaped to galvanise innovation, including the creation of the “DIGital Institute for Cancer Outcomes REsearch” (“DIGICORE”), a European Economic Interest Grouping constituted in Brussels on April 1st, 2021.
This year is going to be yet another year of sustainable growth for OECI reaching an impressive membership of 108 – a threshold we are very proud of. As a network, we continue to broaden our presence and through our Members we are providing services to a growing number of patients all across Europe and beyond.
The roadmap ahead is complex and I warmly encourage our Members to proactively seek to liaise with our initiatives, whilst also proposing new actions to be evaluated and eventually endorsed within OECI. Your feedback is precious and it will help us better achieve our goals and address new challenges that may improve the services to be rendered to our patients - the final stop in our journey towards quality.