14/09/2012

Cancer Patients Missing Out On NI Treatment Targets

Cancer patients across Northern Ireland are starting treatment late as health trusts fail on basic performance standards, it has emerged.

Last April, the health minister said 95% of people who were urgently referred with suspected cancer should begin treatment within 62 days.

But the target is not being met consistently in any of Northern Ireland's five health trusts.

Belfast, despite having an acclaimed cancer centre at the City Hospital, scored worst in the last quarter with Health and Social Care Board figures pointing to just 75% of patients being treated within 62 days.

The problem has been put down to a lack of operating space.

But the board said it is meeting regularly with health trusts to discuss individual cases and prioritise the most serious ones.

John Compton, chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, said all other cancer targets were being met.

But Londonderry-based GP Tom Black told the BBC it was an "important target" and he was worried less targets would be met in future as budgets shrink.

He said: "This is patients with a diagnosis of cancer. It is so important to get them through the system quickly and get them through definite treatment.

"There is very little money in the system and this will get worse in the next three to five years. If there is going to be a health care system with less money in it, we should focus our resources on that which is important so we don't want more health care, we want better health care."

(NE)

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