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Almost all cancer waiting times missed in Northern Ireland latest figures show

Cancer Focus NI has said the latest figures are 'extremely disappointing'
Photo: Stock image

Photo: Stock image

Jamie McDowell

The vast majority of targets set for cancer waiting times in hospitals in Northern Ireland have been missed, partly due to the continued impact of Covid-19.

The chief executive officer for Cancer Focus NI has branded the news as “extremely disappointing”.

Richard Spratt said: "We are extremely disappointed to see that, yet again, large numbers of local cancer patients have not been seen within the Department’s own target dates. This has been a consistent failure ever since these targets were set.

“These statistics are not just numbers; they represent real people. When patients are waiting so long for a diagnostic test or treatment, the impact on them is devastating on top of all the other stresses associated with Covid-19.

"We see and hear this daily in our work supporting local patients and their families throughout their cancer journey, and our hearts go out to them.

"Even pre-Covid, cancer incidence and mortality were increasing, with these trends exacerbated by an ageing population and health inequalities.

"We fear that waiting times will continue to increase for many local people, especially as we’re expecting a large cohort of people with a late diagnosis as a result of the pandemic.”

The figures were revealed in the latest quarterly cancer waiting times report for July to September last year from the Department of Health.

It was reported that a target set for the treatment of 95% of patients to begin cancer treatment within 62 days after getting urgent GP referral was missed.

In the month of September, just 42.5% received treatment within that time, with 43.9% getting treatment in August and 52.4% in July.

In terms of breast cancer patients, 75.5% of patients were seen within 14 days. The target set was for all breast cancer patients to be seen within that time frame.

Speaking of a new Cancer Strategy which is due to be published in Northern Ireland, Mr Spratt added: “There is an urgent need for the publication and sustained resourcing of the new Cancer Strategy, but in the present and immediate future, we need to see improvements under the Cancer Recovery Plan.

"In addition, significant capacity and workforce challenges must be addressed now. We’ve presented these concerns to our political leaders for years via our establishment and facilitation of the All Party Group on Cancer at Stormont. Local people cannot and should not wait anymore.”

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