On the second anniversary of the collapse of the Stormont institutions, Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA has urged the Secretary of State to intervene on the deteriorating situation in the local health service. He was commenting after a further fall in key cancer waiting times.
Roy Beggs said:
"Cancer is a cruel disease that thrives during any avoidable delay in treatment. That is why it is so important that patients are seen, diagnosed and receive treatment on time.
“Yet once again there has been a further fall in the number of local patients who are receiving treatment within the target time-frame. Last November I highlighted the crisis in breast cancer services in the Northern Trust, and now we have confirmation that for the last recorded period only 61.8% of patients commenced their first treatment within 62 days following an urgent referral for suspected cancer. This is a further decline from the position 12 months ago. It’s outrageous and totally unfair to force so many people to wait for so long.
“Targets are set for cancer treatment because there is very sound medical evidence that the longer a patient has to wait for treatment, the greater the risk that they may ultimately come to harm. That’s what makes these missed targets so serious and inexcusable.
“If England mirrored our waiting times it would be a scandal, but in Northern Ireland it is just taken for granted now that every official publication of waiting times will be worse than the one that came before.
“On the second anniversary of the collapse of the Executive we are now long past the point at which the Secretary of State can continue to sit back and do nothing while local people suffer. Yet she’s virtually invisible and appears to show no awareness whatsoever that people are coming to real medical harm as a result of the impasse and her inaction.”