Belfast Telegraph

NI cancer strategy 'needs to find new ways of working'

Prof Charlotte McArdle
Prof Charlotte McArdle

By David Young

The projected rise in cancer cases represents one of the biggest challenges facing Northern Ireland's health service, Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle warned yesterday.

Professor McArdle has been appointed chair of the Department of Health steering group tasked with developing a new 10-year cancer strategy for Northern Ireland.

She is to bring forward her cancer strategy by June 2020.

Speaking ahead of a meeting at Stormont today to discuss the way forward on the strategy, Professor McArdle said: "The projections for the future make stark reading.

"In the period 2009-2013, there were 4,347 male and 4,175 female cases of cancer diagnosed each year here.

"By 2026, this figure is expected to rise by 43% for men and by 40% for women, reaching approximately 6,200 and 6,000 cases per year respectively.

"The anticipated growth in the incidence of cancer is directly attributable to the fact that people are living longer.

"It is imperative that we act now to meet the challenge.

"A fully comprehensive new strategy for the period 2020 to 2030 will help us direct our skilled workforce and resources most effectively.

"It is very clear we will need to identify new ways of working.

"The development of a new strategy is very much part of the transformation agenda for health and social care."

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly announced in March that a new cancer strategy is to be commissioned.

Mr Pengelly said yesterday: "The department's appointment of the Chief Nursing Officer as chair of the steering group underlines the priority we are attaching to this work.

"In keeping with the principles of co-production, today's meeting is a first step in engaging with a wide range of people on the new strategy.

"This is a genuine partnership approach which seeks to bring people together to find shared solutions and the best outcomes for patients and their families.

"We have made great strides in tackling cancer over the last decade and I wish to see that progress continue.

"There is much more we need to do and a new strategy will help us to do that.

"It is intended that the strategy will be completed by June 2020."

Roisin Foster, chief executive of Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: "We are very pleased to be involved in discussions about the new cancer strategy.

"I believe it is vitally important for everyone involved, from patients and their carers, charities and other health professionals, to give their views on how to improve services and ensure the best outcome for patients.

"Undoubtedly there is a lot of work to be done but this new strategy is urgently needed.

"Research by the Cancer Registry NI indicates that the incidence of cancer will be over 60% by 2035, so we need to plan now on how to deal with this situation.

"We need our MLAs to carry forward and implement the necessary changes and we'd very much like to see them back at Stormont," the charity chief said.

News of the cancer strategy plan comes just a day after Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride called for people to make their voices heard over changes to breast cancer services. He said making no change "was not a realistic or responsible option" and that spreading resources too thinly could make services vulnerable to collapse.

Dr McBride said services needed to be strengthened for the future.

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