Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has warned that cancer patients are continuing to come to harm as a result of the unprecedented waiting times crisis in the local health service. He was speaking after the latest publication of cancer waiting times statistics by the Department of Health.
Roy Beggs said:
“Whilst it is clearly a failure of policy that not one of the three cancer targets have been met at any stage over any of the last three months, the bigger tragedy is what this meant for the patients concerned.
“Cancer is a disease that cruelly thrives during a period of vacuum, so the sooner it is detected and treatment begins, the better the chance patients have of a successful outcome. The revelation that compared to the target of 95%, only 68.6% of patients in December 2016 actually commenced first treatment within 62 days following an urgent referral for suspect cancer, is simply inexcusable. It represented a further deterioration from the same period 12 months earlier; down from 72.2%.
“What really makes the current situation wholly unacceptable is the revelation that of all the patients waiting longer than 62 days for treatment in December 2016, over 38% were diagnosed with urological cancer. In addition, there is now evidence of a serious problem in breast cancer services in the Southern Health Trust – in December only 39% of patients there were seen by a breast cancer specialist within the 14-day target. We have no way of knowing just what actual impact these delays had on each of the patients affected.
“If the two largest parties can ever get their act together and form a functioning Executive the next Health Minister must better focus their efforts on cancer prevention, early detection and identify the cause of the delays and particularly the gaps within the local medical workforce.”