Cancer services spiralling into ever deeper crisis due to ongoing political impasse – Chambers

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Cancer services spiralling into ever deeper crisis due to ongoing political impasse – Chambers

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Alan Chambers MLA, has warned that patients are being failed by the unprecedented pressures facing cancer services across Northern Ireland. Following the collapse of the Executive and the subsequent absence of political leadership required to fund and drive through the measures contained within Northern Ireland's 10 year cancer plan, many of the much needed reforms & investments committed to have since been paused.

Alan Chambers said: “Cancer is a cruel disease that, sadly, very few families can escape. Yet despite the huge advances in modern diagnosis and treatment, too many people across Northern Ireland are having to wait too long for the care and immediate intervention that they require.

“Over a year ago, Robin Swann, as the UUP Minister of Health, set out a clear pathway within the 10 year Cancer Strategy for ultimately ensuring that everyone in Northern Ireland, wherever they live, has equitable and timely access to the most effective diagnosis, treatment and person centred cancer care. Yet since that time, and despite all political parties initially agreeing to funding the hugely ambitious plan, instead of seeing the start of widespread improvements, patients have been failed as the plan has been starved of the political leadership and budgetary comittments that it requires.

“While the ongoing disgrace of having no Executive, especially at a time of a cost of living crisis, can be blamed for lots of things, the deepening crisis across cancer services is a clear illustration of how people right across Northern Ireland are genuinely coming to real harm. It is totally and utterly abhorrent that patients are being failed in such a cruel and selfish manner.

“In this modern era, there should be no reason for any patient or individual to have to wait so long for cancer treatment, care, diagnostics or support. There must also be greater collaboration across Trust boundaries, targeted funding for equalising waiting times, establishing regional pathways, and renewing the drive for rapid diagnostic centres and clinics that had started in recent years. That would have happened if the Cancer Strategy was being implemented as originally envisaged. 

“With the Executive not functioning, it leaves much uncertainty for these services and the NHS across Northern Ireland. With waiting lists growing rapidly daily, and staff overworked and underpaid, the Executive needs to reform immediately to begin investing in cancer services. There needs to be reforms in cancer services to ensure that in the future, patients are being seen and treated within the target timeframe and that a cancer strategy is implemented to allow for the visions and goals set out to be achievable. We must make Northern Ireland work for the people and get the institutions up and running again immediately."