SDLP East Derry MLA Gerry Mullan has says that delays in cancer treatment is completely unacceptable and that there needs to be an holistic approach to cancer services across Northern Ireland to ensure services are streamlined and that no patient wait longer than usual.
Speaking after today’s Assembly motion, Mr Mullan said:
“The rate of cancer diagnoses has continued to rise and in 2014, some 9000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the North and sadly, almost 4000 people die each year here due to cancer. But the increase in diagnosis has not been matched with an increase in funding and resources.
“Some 95% of patients with an urgent GP referral are supposed to be seen within 62 days. However, between April and June this year, the latest figures show that only 70% were seen in this time.
“Breast cancer treatment targets are also falling by the way side. The percentage of women seen within 14 days of urgent referral for breast cancer has also fallen sharply since last year. Just 64% – 914 out of 1,433 referred patients – were seen on time, compared to 80% in June 2015. In the Southern Health and Social Care Trust area alone, 93% of patients waited more than 14 days.
“These delays are unacceptable and it has become clear that urgent action is needed to safeguard cancer services in the North and to ensure that no patient is disproportionately impacted by delay – cancer is a time sensitive disease and the earlier its treated, the greater the survival rate. This can only be achieved through a comprehensive cancer strategy.
“The Minister should not hide behind another review and it would be more appropriate for her to commission a cancer strategy to ensure that cancer services are properly invested in and developed. This must include the provision of cancer drugs and the undertaking of a review into staffing shortages.