CanNET—a new service model linking regional and metropolitan cancer services into single networks


Background: The treatment for cancer is often complex, involving many disciplines and therapies, which makes it difficult for Australians living in rural and remote areas to access the full range of care required within their local community.

Aim: The Cancer Service Networks National Demonstration Program (CanNET) is a Commonwealth initiative which aimed to improve access to cancer care by linking regional and metropolitan cancer services.

Method: Up to $7 million was made available across seven jurisdictions over a two year period from 2007 to 2009. This funding was to assist the development of sustainable links between cancer specialists and other leading health professionals in metropolitan cancer services and their colleagues in rural and regional centres. Each jurisdiction also made a contribution to the development of the cancer service networks. The cancer service network model is underpinned by: active consumer involvement; the development of agreed referral pathways; a multidisciplinary approach to cancer control; involvement of primary care and allied health professionals; championing of evidence-based practice; access to continuing professional development and training; and integration of rural and regional cancer services into a broad practice network.

Results: Despite having commenced from a different stage in the evolution of these reforms, each jurisdiction has made significant progress towards the establishment of a cancer service network. Achievements include national collaboration on the development of a Directory of Services focusing on identifying Initial Cancer Multidisciplinary Assessment Teams using an agreed template and the use of standardised mini audit tools to assess the degree to which patients receive evidence based cancer care. A national evaluation framework and tools to measure the impact and outcome on consumers, health professionals and the health care system have been developed. A collaboration strategy to facilitate sharing of knowledge and development of common resources across the networks was also implemented. A consumer survey exploring people’s experiences with and perceptions of cancer care delivery is being conducted across five jurisdictions.

Conclusion: CanNET is an approach that enables formal linkages to be developed so that health professionals can work in a co-ordinated and safe manner. Cancer service networks offer the opportunity to improve outcomes by providing agreed standards that accord with best available evidence and to ensure that more people have access to quality treatment and care closer to home where practicable.


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