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Go-ahead for cancer unit 'could hit other services'


The DUP's Edwin Poots

The DUP's Edwin Poots

The DUP's Edwin Poots

The new Health Minister has refused to guarantee other services will not suffer to save the planned radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin.

Edwin Poots has so far been unable to give an assurance over the much-needed facility, although he has stressed it is a priority issue for him.

He visited the cancer centre at Belfast City Hospital yesterday to meet staff and patients and hear first-hand about the work that is done there.

His tour of the facilities followed a visit to Altnagelvin Hospital earlier in the week where he heard the experiences of cancer patients there.

The satellite radiotherapy centre at the Londonderry hospital was cast into doubt earlier this year when the previous Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he did not have enough money to staff and equip the building.

Mr McGimpsey said the only way he could fund the project was by removing money from other services, in particular care packages for Northern Ireland’s elderly.

However, in a widely criticised move, Mr McGimpsey said he was not prepared to do such a thing.

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Asked yesterday whether he could give a guarantee that funding will not be removed from other NHS services to allow the radiotherapy centre to go ahead, Mr Poots replied: “I will be taking steps — to ensure in the longer term — that will involve difficult decisions and radical decisions.

“They will involve changing how the health service currently operates.”

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