AOS – Acute Oncology Services

Northern Ireland is comprised of five health and social care trusts. We have two cancer centres and three cancer units.

The Northern Ireland Acute Oncology service 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 AO CNSs. Each centre and unit has a 24 hour chemotherapy helpline, staffed by chemotherapy trained nurses.

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

The AO Clinical Nurse Specialists have established a Community of Practice which meets quarterly for education and support. We believe that we have demonstrated excellence in collaborative, regional working whilst being responsive to the unique needs of our own trusts and showing innovation at a local level.

We have developed acute oncology regional guidelines which are available via the micro-guide app. The full version of the NI Cancer Network (NICaN) Acute Oncology Clinical Guidelines are available below and are also 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.

We have also developed a compact version of “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.  Primary Care Guidance is available on the NICaN Website here

Over the last year we have introduced 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.

As an Acute Oncology Group, we are committed to providing excellence in cancer care and are very proud of the evolution of our 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.   This dedication has been recognised by the Macmillan Professional Awards


NICaN Acute Oncology Services CRG Terms of Reference

NICaN Acute Oncology Clinical Guidelines

For further information please contact:

Chair Acute Oncology Clinical Reference Group:

Dr Lois Mulholland, Consultant Clinical Oncologist

NI Cancer Network