09/01/2019

Secretary Must Act As NI Cancer Waiting Times Worsen

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, is being urged to intervene in health service matters following the release of government figures which show a deterioration in waiting times for people getting their first treatment for cancer.

The UUP slammed the delay in services, which MLA Roy Beggs added would be seen as a scandal anywhere else in the UK.

On Tuesday 08 January the Department of Health revealed that in September, 369 people started receiving treatment for cancer. For 61.8% (228) of those, that was within the 62-day target for treatment. That compared to 66.4% in August (267 people) and 62.4% (232) people in September 2017.

The figures also show that in September last year 1,100 people were seen by a breast cancer specialist for a first assessment. Almost three quarters (74.5%) were seen within the 14-day target. That was down on the 79.5% in August and 75.6% for the same month in 2017.

The east Antrim MLA commented: "Cancer is a cruel disease that thrives during any avoidable delay in treatment. That is why it is so important that patients are seen, diagnosed and receive treatment on time.
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"Yet once again there has been a further fall in the number of local patients who are receiving treatment within the target time-frame. Last November I highlighted the crisis in breast cancer services in the Northern Trust, and now we have confirmation that for the last recorded period only 61.8% of patients commenced their first treatment within 62 days following an urgent referral for suspected cancer. This is a further decline from the position 12 months ago. It's outrageous and totally unfair to force so many people to wait for so long.

"Targets are set for cancer treatment because there is very sound medical evidence that the longer a patient has to wait for treatment, the greater the risk that they may ultimately come to harm. That's what makes these missed targets so serious and inexcusable.

"In Northern Ireland it is just taken for granted now that every official publication of waiting times will be worse than the one that came before."

In the absence of devolved government, Mr Beggs urged the Secretary to take action.

"On the second anniversary of the collapse of the Executive we are now long past the point at which the Secretary of State can continue to sit back and do nothing while local people suffer. Yet she's virtually invisible and appears to show no awareness whatsoever that people are coming to real medical harm as a result of the impasse and her inaction."



(JG/CM)

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