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Northern Ireland is comprised of five health and social care trusts. There are two cancer centres, three cancer units and a single Cancer Network.  The Northern Ireland Acute Oncology service (AOS) was launched in 2016 across all five trusts and has been very well received across the region.  Each team has input from consultant oncologists and Acute Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists (AO CNS). Each centre and unit has a 24 hour chemotherapy helpline, staffed by chemotherapy trained nurses.

The Acute Oncology Clinical reference group was formed in 2017 it has regional representation from a variety of disciplines and meets three times a year to agree on policies and guidelines and to discuss the direction of travel for the service. There is a regional database to capture every patient encounter with acute oncology (AO) and returns are submitted centrally on a quarterly basis. This has evolved into a very rich source of data and has consistently demonstrated service impact such as reduced patient stay, investigations and results being expedited and patients avoiding admission. 

The AO CNSs have established a Community of Practice which meets quarterly for education and support. This group believes that they have demonstrated excellence in collaborative, regional working whilst being responsive to the unique needs of thier own trusts and showing innovation at a local level.

Acute oncology regional guidelines have been developed and are available via the micro-guide app. 

The full version of the NI Cancer Network (NICaN) Acute Oncology Clinical Guidelines, are available by downloading the free MicroGuide APP (by Horizon ltd) from the usual APP Stores, and registering as Northern Ireland Cancer Network.  

Please note the guidelines are currently under review and subject to change.  

There is also a compact version of  the “Primary Care Guidance for Patients within 6 weeks of Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy (SACT)”. This was launched via a webinar with a Q and A session in summer 2020.

An alert for our regional electronic care record which flags if a patient is on systemic therapy or within 6 weeks of finishing when they present to ED or primary care has been introduced.

The Acute Oncology team, are committed to providing excellence in cancer care and are very proud of the evolution of the service to date, whilst being aware that further development and expansion is needed, especially in terms of developing a CUP service and extending hours to include weekend and evening cover.   

The Department of Health in NI has commissioned a new Cancer Strategy which is currently underway covering diagnosis, treatment, care & support, children & young people, living well, prevention and palliative/end of life care.  It is hoped that there will be further opportunities for the expansion and evolution of the AO service through implementation of this Strategy.


  • Chair Acute Oncology Clinical Reference Group:  Dr Lois Mulholland, Consultant Clinical Oncologist
  • NI Cancer Network Acute Oncology Clinical Network Coordinator: Pippa McIlduff


For further information please contact:  Nican.Office@hscni.net  


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