Latest Cancer Waiting Times Spark Calls For Action

An Ulster Unionist MLA has reiterated calls for the UK Government to step in and take action on health matters following publication of the latest cancer waiting times.

Official figures released by the Department of Health reveal that in September 2019, 48.2% of patients given an urgent referral for suspected cancer started treatment within the 62 day target.

The news comes as Northern Ireland’s main political parties continue an intensive week of talks aimed at restoring devolved government at Stormont.

UUP Health spokesperson Roy Beggs said the UK Government must intervene on health if a deal to restore powersharing is not finalised by Monday 13 January. Secretary of State Julian Smith has pledged to call fresh Assembly elections if such a deal is not reach by that date.

Mr Beggs said: “Cancer is a cruel disease that often thrives during periods of delays in diagnosis and treatment.

“The latest waiting times are frightening and once again illustrate the tragedy of what is happening across our health service. Of the 202 patients that waited longer than 62 days for treatment in September 2019, over a third were later diagnosed with urological cancer.

“It is ridiculous that it even has to be said but saving lives from cancer must trump all other political demands and red lines. No other issue is more important than the health and well-being of our local population.

“On the day that 9,000 nurses are striking, it’s blatantly obvious that action needs to be taken and taken now.”

The Royal College of Nurses staged a second day of strike action on Wednesday 08 January, with thousands of staff stepping away from their roles to join the picket lines in their fight for safe staffing and pay parity.

The east Antrim MLA added: “It is a total disgrace that the ongoing impasse at Stormont is getting in the way of resolving the pressures. If there is no deal by Monday the Westminster Government must step in and immediately take back responsibility for health matters. Only then could there be a chance of better outcomes for local patients.”

September also saw some 91.4% of patients begin their first treatment within the target of 31 days following a decision to treat, while 95.8% of patients urgently referred for suspected breast cancer were seen within the 14 day target.

A total of 2,087 new referrals for suspected breast cancer were made throughout the month of September. The Department of Health’s latest quarterly statistics also provide details for cancer waiting times during July August of last year.


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