Calls for new cancer strategy in NI after failure to meet waiting time targets

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There are calls for a new cancer strategy to be implemented in Northern Ireland.

It follows the publication of figures today, revealing all health trusts failed to meet waiting time targets last quarter.

Between July and September of 2018, only 64% of patients here were with an "urgent referral" for suspected cancer were seen within the recommended time of 62 days.

However the target is much higher, at 95%.

Margaret Carr from Cancer Research UK told Q Radio the current strategy needs updated:

 

She said:

“These latest cancer waiting time figures are extremely disappointing. The failure to meet the 62-day target is particularly worrying. Northern Ireland has never met this target since it was introduced.

“Diagnostic services are struggling to meet demand due to shortfalls in staffing. Staff in the diagnostic services are working harder than ever but there’s just not enough of them to tackle the backlog of patients waiting. Having the right levels of highly trained diagnostic staff must be a priority for the health service.

“The Department of Health has said they are looking at the possibility of creating a new cancer strategy in 2019. This is a welcome development and we need to see urgent progress to ensure more is done to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. ”

 

A spokesperson from the Health and Social Care Board said:

 

“The assessment and treatment of all patients referred to hospital because of a suspicion of cancer remains a priority for HSC and clinicians continue to prioritise the most urgent patients. That said performance is not good enough and that is a matter of concern.”

 

“Increased demand for services coupled with recruitment challenges continue to impact negatively on performance. Transformation funding has enabled non-recurrent funding of £30m to be allocated in 2018/19 to undertake additional elective activity to reduce waiting lists by targeting those patients with the highest clinical priority, including those with suspected or confirmed cancer and those waiting the longest for assessment and treatment.  Whilst this additional funding will benefit some patients in the short term sustained improvement can only be achieved through transforming the way services are delivered.

 

“In Northern Ireland, the outcomes for patients with cancer are comparable to other parts of the United Kingdom, however there is room for improvement. The good news is that 6 out of 10 people with a diagnosis of cancer live more than 5 years. This represents a huge improvement over the last 20 years which is, in no small part, due to earlier diagnosis as well as access to better treatments”.

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