Psycho-oncological assistance for patients with cancer, Lazio Region first to approve the law

The Lazio Regional Council approved the regional law proposal n.191 of 17 October 2019 which promotes the establishment of psycho-oncological assistance services in the hospitals of the Region and the mandatory presence of the psycho-oncologist within the multidisciplinary team that deals with the care of the oncological and onco-haematological patient. The council chamber approved unanimously and the Lazio Region thus became the first to establish this type of services by law.

It is an important milestone for the tens of thousands of people who have received a cancer diagnosis in Italy and need psychological support; a step forward for the Group’s 43 Patient Associations “Health: an asset to be defended, a right to be promoted”Who for over 5 years have worked tirelessly together with Councilor Loreto Marcelli, bearer of the bill. Therefore, starting today Lazio hospitals will have to equip themselves with a psycho-oncologist who becomes obligatorily part of the multidisciplinary team that deals with the care of cancer patients.

” For 7 years the group “Health: an asset to defend, a right to promote” has been advocating for the introduction of psycho-oncology in Italian hospital wards – declares Annamaria Mancuso, President of Women’s Health onlus and Group Coordinator – the approval of the Marcelli law proposal by the Lazio Regional Council is the culmination of this institutional effort that all the associations of the project have been carrying out for such a long time. I am very satisfied because psycho-oncological assistance is a clinical need that is very much felt by patients but is still partly unsatisfied on the national territory. I want to thank in particular the Councilor Marcelli for the strong commitment he has shown in recent years in favor of oncological and onco-haematological patients. We hope that the Lazio experience will soon be exported to other Regions ”.

The idea of ​​establishing psycho-oncological assistance services in hospitals was born from listening to patients, people who struggle every day against cancer and need psychological support to be able to face the long and painful path of the disease. Law 191 goes to remedy an important deficiency that can no longer be left to the good will of the hospital administrations. Lazio, on the other hand, had already embarked on this journey within the regional oncological network for the management of breast cancer, with the introduction of psycho-oncologists into the Breast Units, an integral part of the multidisciplinary team.

” I am very happy with the unanimous consent that this bill has received in the classroom of the Lazio Regional Council because it demonstrates that the importance of the role and work of the psycho-oncologist in protecting the oncological and onco-haematological patient has been fully understood – underlines the Councilor Loreto Marcelli, member of the Parliamentary Intergroup “Together against cancer” and Vice President of the Health Commission – I thank the patient associations belonging to the group “Health: an asset to defend, a right to promote” and the Italian Society of Psycho-Oncology (SIPO), which working in synergy, each with their own experiences and knowledge, have actively contributed to this complex but necessary process of understanding and awareness of the need for psycho-oncology in hospital wards. I hope to soon see the implementation of the provisions contained in the Consolidated Law and that this first step can become an example for other institutions in our country and expand the offer for patients ”.

Cancer affects the emotional, sexual, couple, relational, social, work and school spheres. According to the 12th Report on the welfare conditions of cancer patients in Italy, 25-30% of patients have psychological disorders of depression and anxiety that affect the quality of life, recovery, adherence to care and rehabilitation while 50-70% are subject to emotional distress. It is estimated that at least 1,000,000 patients in Italy need specialist psycho-oncological interventions to which must be added interventions for caregivers, family members and health workers.

” This law – he comments Angela Piattelli, Vice President of the Italian Society of Psycho-Oncology (Sipo) – goes in the direction long desired by our scientific society, namely that of allowing psychological professionals to become fully part of the multidisciplinary team in the oncology and onco-haematology departments and offer patients access to psychological support that is not yet widespread or is patchy throughout the country. I remember that psychological support is one of the needs most requested by patients with cancer and their families, who alone often cannot cope with a serious disease such as a tumor with all the consequences related to it. I hope that this important decision of the Lazio Regional Council classroom can lead the way for other regional realities and also to become law at the national level ”.

The text of the law consists of 6 articles which, in addition to dictating provisions aimed at protecting the right of every cancer patient in the Region to access psycho-oncological treatments, promotes the inclusion of psycho-oncological assistance services in the regional oncological network through the ‘activation of an integrated multidisciplinary-multiprofessional organizational model in which the figure of the psycho-oncologist is strengthened in all phases of the disease. Law 191 also provides ad hoc training courses for specialists aimed at a potential number of 680 psychologists whose training will be carried out for groups of 50-60 participants through face-to-face lessons, Fad and 10-hour internships.