Cancer charities calls for Stormont health minister amid waiting time concerns
CANCER charities last night spoke of the urgent need for a health minister following confirmation that waiting time targets for treatment in Northern Ireland have been missed again.
Figures released yesterday reveal that only 63 per cent of patients with an urgent referral for suspected cancer started treatment within 62 days.
The target is 95 per cent.
The statistics, for July to September 2017, show all health trusts across the north missed the standard.
Northern Ireland has never met the target since it was established eight years ago.
Statistics also reveal a marked decline over the past year in the number of women seen within 14 days following an urgent referral for breast cancer.
It has fallen from almost 96 per cent of patients in 2016 to 75 per cent in 2017.
Cancer Research UK and Cancer Focus NI both expressed concern that targets are still being missed.
Margaret Carr from Cancer Research said it is "crucial" that power-sharing is restored at Stormont to help tackle the issues.
"It's extremely disappointing these targets have not been met more than eight years after they were introduced, and the delays are getting worse," she said.
"Some people are waiting too long to find out whether have cancer and for treatment to begin, which is hugely distressing for them and their families.
"Health care staff are working in a difficult environment and doing their best for patients. But the lack of an assembly and executive means there's no plan of action to transform Northern Ireland's cancer services.
"Patients deserve better. It's crucial a new government in Northern Ireland begins work on a cancer strategy to improve things with the utmost urgency."
Roisin Foster from Cancer Focus said waiting times "place enormous stress on patients and on their families".
"For many cancer patients time is of the essence - the earlier cancer is diagnosed and treatment begins, the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome," she said.
Ms Foster also spoke of the urgent need for a "health minister in post to drive forward the very necessary reform of our health service and a development of an up-to-date cancer strategy that will adequately plan for best possible delivery of cancer services and above all the best results for patients".