Almost half of cancer patients referred urgently by their GP for treatment waited at least 62 days for it to start, according to the latest figures.
Cancer remains the biggest cause of death in Northern Ireland, yet while the numbers being diagnosed and dying from the disease continue to rise, budgets shrink and waiting lists grow.
Of the 325 people who began treatment for cancer in June just 55.4% (180 patients) were seen within the 62-day target.
Ulster Unionist health spokesman Roy Beggs has hit out at the “further deterioration in breached targets and delays”.
He said: “It’s an appalling and deeply tragic situation.
“Every time the cancer figures are released there is a collective sigh of disbelief right across Northern Ireland, but even that now quickly fades, for as a society we have come to expect nothing else.
“We have by far the worst waiting times in the UK and there is no longer any doubt that delays in treatments are seeing local patients come to real physical and emotional harm.
“Increasing referrals, combined with growing numbers of vacant staff posts in the local NHS , mean we are simply not meeting demand for key cancer services.”
In 2016, the last full year of cancer stats available, 9,446 were diagnosed with the disease – up 10% from 8,522 in 2006.
But 16% more people lost their lives to the killer disease with cancer deaths up from 3,885 to 4,538 over the same years.
In roughly the same time frame, waiting times grew significantly, while 91.12% of patients started treatment within 62 days in December 2006 that number dropped to 69.86% in the same month of 2016.
The Department of Health say the June statistics “underline once again the need to reshape services” but did not respond to questions about the impact of shrinking budgets.
Dr Lesley-Ann Black and Keara McKay told the Northern Ireland Assembly in their 2017 report on cancer that it is difficult to determine whether services for the disease are targeted appropriately as Health chiefs can’t say exactly how much of their budget goes to cancer services – unlike Wales where they spend 7%.
“The department is committed to taking forward key initiatives including the development of a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland,” a spokesperson added.
“The responses to our public consultation on reshaping breast assessment services are being carefully studied ahead of decisions on next steps.
“Addressing waiting times across health and social care will require transformation of services and sustained investment.”
Cancer Focus NI head of care services Dervilia Kernaghan said the “latest figures clearly show that some ministerial targets are still not being met”.
She added: “We know that with our ageing population and the increased incidence of cancer there is consistent pressure on our health services which is likely to continue.
“We acknowledge how stretched the health service is and we have consistently called for investment in our cancer services.
“To this end we are supporting the development of the department’s new cancer strategy which is due for publication next year. Cancer Focus NI’s vision is for a new comprehensive and well-resourced approach to address these issues faced by cancer patients in a systemic, robust and sustained manner.”
Cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days: June-09 compared to June-19
Belfast: 59.7% / 43.1%
Northern: 77.3% / 56.1%
South Eastern: 57.6% / 44.1%
Southern: 83.4 / 74.4%
Western: 89.4 / 63.7%
Keep up-to-date with all the very latest news, what’s on, sport and everything else in Belfast and beyond with the Belfast Live app.
Only select news that interests you by picking the topics you want to display on the app’s homepage. Plus, our enhanced user experience includes live blogs, video, interactive maps and slick picture galleries. Download it now and get involved.
Parliamentary reports show first speaker only - follow this lnk for the full transcription.
Articles may come from parliamentary reports, various public news feeds and Google News Search. Content is republished here for context. Copyright is respected and remains with the original author at all times. Original Article:https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/health/cancer-treatment-waits-northern-ireland-16988963