Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland health crisis: Cancer cases at 82,000 and rising fast, says charity

Struggle: Heather Monteverde
Struggle: Heather Monteverde
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

There are around 82,000 people living with cancer in Northern Ireland - an increase of 8,000 in just two years.

That number is predicted to rise to 114,000 by 2030, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity, which obtained the data from local cancer registries, said the figures highlight the critical need for a Stormont Executive to tackle rising cancer diagnoses amid workforce shortages, untenable waiting times and pressures facing health and social care professionals.

Heather Monteverde, Head of Services for Macmillan in Northern Ireland, explained that only 55% of cancer patients start treatment within 62 days and described cancer waiting times as "indefensible".

"One in five people here receive their cancer diagnosis in the emergency department, an environment which is not set up to provide the specialist care and support they need," she said.

"Add to this the fact that the workforce is struggling. More and more people are hearing the life-changing news that they have cancer, at a time when the health service desperately needs additional doctors and nurses.

"The most recent NI cancer patient experience survey shows that only half [53%] of cancer patients reported that they had someone in hospital to talk to about their worries and fears."

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A spokesperson for the DoH said that a "radical" reshaping of Northern Ireland's health service is vital if cancer waiting times are going to be tackled.

"For a number of years, significant additional investment was made available to help bridge this gap between demand and capacity," the department added.

"This included funding for extra in-house clinics as well as paying for treatments for patients in private clinics.

"These extra monies have been in much shorter supply from 2014, due to financial pressures facing the Health and Social Care system and wider public sector.

"Waiting lists have climbed steadily since then."

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