Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has said the latest publication of cancer waiting times, which confirmed a further pronounced deterioration in treatment times, illustrates the human tragedy that is gripping the local health service.
Roy Beggs said:
“Cancer is a disease that thrives in a vacuum, so the sooner it is detected and treatment can begin, the better the chance a patient has of a successful outcome.
“It is deeply disheartening therefore to learn that the latest cancer waiting times have suffered a further major deterioration.
“Compared to twelve months ago, the two key targets which cancer services are measured against have both worsened. It is outrageous that in December only 66.4% of patients started treatment for cancer within 62 days following an urgent referral - a further fall of over 2% on the year before, and despite the target being 95%. This is shocking and completely unacceptable.
“The situation is especially bad in relation to breast cancer services in parts of Northern Ireland. The supposedly rigid government-set target is that every single urgent breast cancer referral should be seen within 14 days. In spite of this, across the Southern Trust area which covers the area around Dungannon, Craigavon and Newry, the average across the last three months in 2017 was shockingly less than 37%.
“This time last year I said that if the two larger parties could ever get their act together and form a functioning Executive, the next Health Minister urgently needed to focus their efforts on cancer prevention, early detection and rectifying the gaps within the local medical workforce which are causing the delays. That didn’t happen and now cancer waiting times have continued to get worse.
“The frightening thing is, as far as I can see, there is nothing being done to resolve the current crisis so I fear waiting times generally are doomed to get far worse before they get any better and the people of Northern Ireland will continue to suffer unnecessarily.”