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Athens to unpause screening programmes, health ministry sources say

The implementation of the “Spyros Doxiadis” Action Plan of public health screening is expected to get back on track within the first semester of 2024

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2024

“We begin directly with the implementation of health screening programmes funded by RRF funds”, the source told.
“We begin directly with the implementation of health screening programmes funded by RRF funds”, the source told.

by Marianthi Pelekanaki

The implementation of the “Spyros Doxiadis” Action Plan of public health screening is expected to get back on track within the first semester of 2024, as Greece’s new health minister takes office. First up is the cervical cancer screening programme, due to start next month.

As Euractiv reported a few months ago, the programmes were brought to a relative halt, except the breast cancer-focused “Fofi Gennimata” programme, named after the late leader of the socialist Pasok party, who personally battled with the disease.

“All of them will be finally enacted within the first semester of 2024,” a source close to the ministry’s leadership told Euractiv.

“Spiros Doxiadis” Action Plan for Public Health

The national public health screening programme, “Spiros Doxiadis”, was added to Greece’s Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF).

It touches on three pillars: primary & secondary prevention and public health system reform, and includes over 20 actions, with a total budget of more than €300 million. Primarily, the focus has fallen on the early detection of common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the general population.

In line with these priorities, four screening programmes were laid out:

Breast cancer prevention for 1.3 million women aged 50-69; cervical cancer prevention programme for 2,5 million women aged 21-65; cardiovascular diseases screening for 5.5 million people aged 30-70; and colorectal cancer prevention programme for 3.8 million people aged 50-70.

After the breast cancer programme was deployed, the preventive diagnostic examinations for cervical cancer was to be implemented, followed by the one for cardiovascular disease.

But last year, the implementation of the other three programmes was put on hold.

New minister hits “unpause”

For the past six months, the Greek health ministry’s leadership has been hinting that the next steps of the prevention programme are about to get back on track but little progress has been made.

The appointment of Adonis Georgiadis as the new health minister in the first days of January seems to signal an acceleration in the procedures.

According to a source close to the ministry’s leadership, the rest of the health screening programmes related to the Recovery and Resilience Fund will be enacted within the first semester of 2024.

“We begin directly with the implementation of health screening programmes funded by RRF funds”, the source told Euractiv.

“All of them will be finally enacted within the first semester of 2024”, the source added.

Cervical Cancer Screening Programme

In July 2022, the Greek parliament approved the public health action “Preventive Diagnostic Examinations for Cervical Cancer” as part of the screening programme.

It was to be the second screening programme to be implemented. The first steps were taken but the action was paused last April.

EOPYY, the National Healthcare Services Provider, cited the need for more legislative changes, “since the programme will establish a procedure for a preventive quality control of compliance with the technical specifications for the HPV-DNA test”.

The floods in central Greece pushed the implementation even further back as the government’s priorities shifted radically.

The source close to the health ministry said the screening programme for cervical cancer “is going to be the first [to be released]. Its implementation will start directly in the next month, and the rest are to come in the following months”.

Some €254 million has been allocated from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility Fund (RRF), especially for the “Spiros Doxiadis” action plan, indicating the importance of keeping up with deadlines in project implementation.

Concerns over cervical cancer programme
As Euractiv previously reported, healthcare and medical providers made several significant investments, preparing to deliver their services on time, in accordance with the technical specifications laid out in the relevant ministerial decisions.

After the unexpected suspension of the project, concerns started to arise in the healthcare industry relating to changes in the project’s technical requirements.

Asked by Euractiv whether the specifications would indeed change, the ministry source did not provide an answer.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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