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Northern Ireland cancer charity expresses ‘dismay’ over latest waiting times, as figures reveal missed targets


Stock photo.

Stock photo.

Stock photo.

A charity in Northern Ireland has expressed “dismay” over the latest quarterly cancer waiting times which showed just 48% of patients received first treatment following a GP referral.

The figures were released from the Department of Health covering January and March this year.

The target set by the Department is that 95% of patients should commence their first treatment for cancer within 62 days.

The report also revealed that 872 patients commenced their first treatment for cancer following a decision to treat being taken and of these, 772 (88.5%) started treatment within 31 days – with the departmental target 98%.

For those with suspected breast cancer, just 43.6% were seen by a breast cancer specialist for a first assessment within 14 days, with the target by Minister Robin Swann stating that “all urgent breast cancer referrals” should be seen within that time frame.

Earlier this month it was revealed thirty-two suspected cancer patients had been waiting longer than a year to see a hospital doctor in March

In response to the figures, Richard Spratt from Cancer Focus Northern Ireland said the charity hear every day the “devastating” impact of people’s journey with cancer.

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“Once again, we are dismayed at this repeated failure to meet the Department’s own waiting time targets. These statistics represent real people,” he said.

“Waiting for a diagnostic test or treatment, can be devastating – we hear of the impact every day as we continue to support local patients and their families through their cancer journey.

"The ongoing collapse of the Stormont Executive has created unnecessary worry around the long-term budgetary planning necessary to implement the new Cancer Strategy.

“Cancer Focus NI expects an urgent commitment from all Ministers to guarantee recurring funding to deliver the Strategy’s recommendations immediately.

“This was our key ask for our politicians at the recent Assembly elections and the public need and demand delivery.

“We welcome the Minister’s recent announcement to address waiting lists for the first six months of 2022/23.

“We believe that if properly resourced it can go some of the way to alleviate the backlog. However, more importantly, we urgently need a clear plan for sustained funding of the new Cancer Strategy.

“This must include significant improvements in capacity to meet workforce challenges. Local people deserve and expect better from our political leaders.”

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew said cancer patients are being “left behind” over the lack of a functioning Executive.

"We need an Executive up and running today to start investing an extra £1 billion in our health service to tackle waiting lists, recruit more doctors and nurses, fund mental health and cancer services and transform our health service,” he said.

SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath branded the figures a “disgrace”.

“The quarterly publishing of our cancer waiting time statistics has become routine, we know that all the key targets will be missed and we know that patients will face waits for treatment that just aren’t acceptable,” he said.

"It’s an absolute disgrace that we have allowed this to become the norm in the North and thousands of patients and their families are suffering as a result.”

The Department of Health has been contacted.

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