This is the fourth report to include data from the Omicron outbreak and covers the period up to June 2022, except for cancer registration data which were available up to May 2022.
Cancer registrations show a 9% increase overall compared with the average of May 2018/19 (ie, pre-COVID-19). For Māori there was an 8% increase in registrations over this time. Overall, for 2022 to date there were 4% fewer cancer surgeries performed compared to the average of 2018/19, due to lower volumes of colorectal cancer and breast cancer surgeries. For Māori, there has been a 3% increase in combined cancer surgeries for the year to date relative to 2018/19 however, the proportion of Māori lung cancer surgery in particular was down by 25% for the year to date relative to 2018/19 (16 fewer surgeries).
For 2022 to date, medical oncology first specialist assessments (FSAs) increased by 2% compared to the same period in 2018/19 and IV chemotherapy increased by 10%. Radiation oncology FSAs increased by 6% for 2022 to date compared to 2018/19; however, radiation therapy attendances and completed radiation therapy courses both decreased by 11% compared to 2018/19. For haematology, there was a 5% decrease in FSAs for 2022 to date, and an increase of 13% for IV chemotherapy attendances compared with 2018/19.
Overall, there is evidence of some downturns in delivery of some services, and these downturns are likely to be the result of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the normal delivery of care, with the added impact of other illnesses such as influenza. Te Aho o Te Kahu acknowledges the ongoing pressures on the cancer care system at this time, in particular on the cancer workforce due to staff illness and capacity issues as a result of COVID-19 and other illnesses. That this reporting shows many comparable results to the pre-pandemic period suggests that cancer care staff are working diligently to ensure the continuation of cancer care in Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Aho o Te Kahu continues to work with the sector and will monitor and further investigate downturns in service delivery, with particularly focus on evidence on inequity (such as lung cancer surgery for Māori).