» European Commission project on quality assurance for breast cancer services

26 September, 2014

On 11 July 2014, EA signed a 26-month services contract with the European Commission to contribute to the development of a quality assurance scheme for breast cancer services.

An RvA-led steering group specific for the BCS project was set up within the EA Executive Committee. The working group dedicated to the project includes experts from ENAC, DANAK, IARM and FINAS.

By the fall of 2016, a pilot project will be implemented in order for EA-member ABs to test in practice the BCS accreditation scheme by performing accreditation activities in accordance with the scheme’s requirements. All communication issues needed for this purpose will be supported by the EA Secretariat and Communications and Publications Committee (EA CPC).

Cancer affects a large proportion of the EU population, with breast cancer as the most common cause of cancer death in women. Substantial and persistent inequalities in breast cancer incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival exist within and between Member States; these inequalities are closely related to significant variability in the delivery of services for prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Since 2003 the EU Council has been encouraging Member States to develop comprehensive cancer strategies and plans, while inviting the European Commission (EC) to explore the potential for the development of voluntary European accreditation schemes for cancer screening and appropriate follow-up of lesions detected by screening.

The EC has then initiated a project to develop an EU quality assurance (QA) scheme for breast cancer services (BCS) which aims at ensuring that there is a process whereby all BCS, irrespective of the country and organisation framework within which they are provided, can demonstrate that they meet an agreed standard and that patients and commissioners of services can have a high degree of confidence in all the processes directly related to breast cancer healthcare at all stages of BCS.

This scheme, which will be based on a revision of the European Quality Assurance Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis, is to be underpinned by accreditation in accordance with Regulation (EC) 765/2008. All aspects of BCS including diagnosis, surgery, treatment, nursing care and palliative care will be covered by the QA scheme; the main focus will be the quality of care and experience of the patient.

EA’s mission is to provide comprehensive guidance for the scheme’s different stakeholders, i.e. national authorities, professional bodies, national accreditation bodies (NABs) and conformity assessment bodies (CABs). Managing a well-established process for the production and publication of application, technical advisory and guidance documents, EA will provide generic publications describing the accreditation framework, toolkit, processes and procedures for accreditation.

The QA scheme for BCS needs to be very flexible in order to ensure inclusivity for the many different healthcare systems, ranging from rudimentary to mature, throughout Europe. To operate effectively, the scheme needs to make use of different standards, tools and techniques. The delivery of the scheme in different European countries will also depend on a number of various factors.