New cancer waiting list figures reveal the 'scale of delays' facing patients in Northern Ireland
THERE were warnings last night that more healthcare staff were needed after new waiting list figures reveal the "scale of delays" facing patients in Northern Ireland.
The latest figures show only 68.6 per cent of patients with an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer started treatment within 62 days. The target is 95 per cent.
In June, only 70.4 per cent of patients started treatment within 62 days following their urgent referral, compared with 67.3 per cent in May 2018.
Of the 107 patients waiting longer than 62 days for treatment in June 2018, over 35.5 per cent were diagnosed with cancer.
Margaret Carr from Cancer Research UK said a cancer strategy was needed to address staff shortages in the healthcare system.
"Healthcare staff in Northern Ireland are working harder than ever to diagnose and treat people with cancer. But despite their best efforts, the 62 day target continues to be missed," she said.
"To diagnose cancer earlier and give patients a better chance at survival, we need to carry out more tests and this requires more staff.
"A cancer strategy which includes action to assess and address staff shortages is desperately needed in Northern Ireland if patients are to be seen more quickly.
"Waiting is an anxious time for anyone potentially facing a cancer diagnosis and it's important this wait is minimised as much as possible."
Ulster Unionist health spokesperson Roy Beggs said the waiting times "once again revealed the scale of delays facing local patients".
"Cancer is a disease that thrives in a vacuum. The sooner it is detected and treatment can begin, the better the chance a patient has of a successful outcome," he said.
"Tragically with the current delays some local cancer patients may be coming to harm as a result of the unprecedented pressures in the health service."