Putting a spotlight on the quality of cancer care

By Philip Poortmans, President of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), a not-for-profit federation that exists to uphold the right of all European cancer patients to the best possible treatment and care, promoting interaction between all organisations involved in cancer at European level.

Philip Poortmans

The 19th century Victorian commentator John Ruskin once advised that “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort. There must be the will to produce a superior thing”. It is to the final part of that dictum that ECCO is progressively devoting its best efforts. Our first ‘Quality Cancer Care Week’ (5th to 11th March 2018) has sought to stimulate political will for action to ensure that all cancer patients in Europe have access to high quality care.

The centrepiece activity of the week was a high-level multi-stakeholder event in the European Parliament on the 6th March designed to stimulate debate on the following aspects of quality care:

  • Essential requirements;
  • Patient perspectives;
  • Tools to measure it; and,
  • European approaches to achieving it.


Via ECCO’s Essential Requirements for Quality Cancer Care (ERQCCs), we now possess strong organisational descriptions across a number of tumour types, including sarcoma, colorectal, melanoma and oesophageal and gastric cancer - of the core elements required to achieve quality cancer care. This includes, but is not limited to, firm understanding of what is needed in respect to:

  • Multidisciplinary team working, including defining the core and extended multidisciplinary teams
  • Cancer care pathways
  • Time lines of care
  • Minimum case volumes
  • Audit of outcomes and care
  • Performance measurement of outcomes and care
  • Quality assurance of outcomes and care
  • Professional education needs
  • Enrolment in clinical trials
  • Delivery of patient information


While ECCO will continue to advance new Essential Requirements documents for additional tumour types (this year breast and prostate, shortly thereafter followed by ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancer), we are also conscious that a goal without a plan to support its achievement, will remain only a remote wish. The ERQCCs are no simple wishlists, they are charters for what cancer patients are entitled to expect as being their right. Therefore, our attention now turns firmly to implementation activity, starting with communication of the ERQCC vision and measurement of the current status of achievement across Europe.

That is why our event last week gave so much attention to the need to better coordinate the efforts being made by in respect to quality cancer care in Europe. The ECCO 2018 European Cancer Summit (7th to 9th September 2018, Vienna) will bring stakeholders together to make resolutions on how to better advance this field.

ECCO will never stop campaigning and working on quality cancer care. It is a united ambition of the European cancer community; a social cause of significance to all of us.


ECCO thanks Eli Lilly and Company and TESARO Bio GmbH for their financial support for communication activities associated with the Quality Cancer Care Week


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