11/01/2019

Worry As Deteriorating Cancer Waiting Times Revealed

Elected representatives in Northern Ireland have expressed concern at the deteriorating waiting times for cancer treatment in the region.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw, who lost her mother to the disease only last year, said she was "extremely worried" after the Department of Health revealed the further growth in the length of time patients wait to begin treatment after receiving a diagnosis.

In September last year, 369 people began receiving medical care, but only 61.8% commenced the process within the recommended 62 day period, a fall of almost 3% from the previous month.

Ms Bradshaw, who is Chair of the Assembly All-Party Group on Cancer, said: "Despite huge amounts of additional funding being made available by the Department of Health in recent years, it does not seem to have made any difference. So a better, long-term approach is urgently required.

"On the All-Party Group, we have been highlighting the growing numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer, the need for investment in diagnostic treatment, requirement for a workforce recruitment drive and staff development programme, and more funding for preventative measures such as vaccine programmes, and community education programmes."

The MLA for south Belfast added: "All of this activity should be encompassed within a comprehensive cancer strategy for Northern Ireland, and while there have been some murmurings about such a strategy forthcoming, there has been no evidence of its formulation or engagement around its content.
News Image
"My mother passed from cancer in 2018 and I witnessed first-hand the devastating impact on the patient and their families and carers. I also saw the huge effort and range of treatment our hardworking cancer healthcare staff put into her treatment and care, and I firmly believe they deserve more resources and more colleagues.

"In short, we need our Department of Health to accelerate its efforts to bring forward this cancer strategy as soon as possible, to ensure the upward trend in cancer is arrested and then reversed."

In recent days, the UUP's Roy Beggs has hit out at the deterioration in cancer services as something that would be a "scandal" in any other UK region.

The east Antrim MLA said: "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 Secretary of State Karen Bradley 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)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

04 April 2019
97 Arts Organisations To Benefit From £12.8m Annual Funding
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has announced grants of £12.8 million to be divided among 97 key arts organisations across the region.
28 August 2008
NI Cancer Treatment Figures Look Positive
All NI breast cancer patients needing an urgent consultation with a specialist were seen within two weeks of referral by their GP.
10 April 2014
Stormont Group Says More Cancer Could Be Prevented
Almost 12,800 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer each year and a significant number of these could be prevented through greater awareness, a new report from the All Party Group on Cancer (APGC) at Stormont has revealed.
07 April 2004
Health meeting to tackle cancer scourge
Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer today met with leading figures from the American Cancer Society to discuss how cancer prevention, treatment and research could be benefited from greater collaboration. Dr Henrietta Campbell said today's meeting was one of the significant benefits arising from the American/All-Ireland Cancer Consortium.
05 May 2004
Cancer patients should be more involved in research
Cancer patients should be given a role in the search to find new and better treatments for the disease, a leading researcher will tell a University audience tonight.