Leading cancer charity says new waiting time figures are 'once again very disappointing'
A LEADING cancer charity has said new figures showing just 60 per cent of cancer patients in Northern Ireland started their first treatment within the target time period were "once again very disappointing".
Cancer Research UK said the "continued poor performance indicates major issues with the services that provide tests for patients".
It comes after statistics from the Department of Health reveal in December 2018, 319 patients began their first treatment following an urgent referral by their GP.
But just 193 patients - 60.5 per cent - began treatment within the target 62 day period, compared with 66.8 per cent the year before.
The figures reveal improvements for breast cancer patients awaiting a first assessment from a specialist.
Of the 1,122 patients who received an assessment, 99.8 per cent were seen within the target time of 14 days. This figure has risen from 80.8 per cent in December 2017.
In a statement, the Department of Health said: "When £30 million was allocated to address waiting times in 2018/19, it was made clear patients with the highest clinical need, including those with suspected or confirmed cancer, would be a priority.
"Whilst this non-recurrent investment has made a real difference, the overall cancer waiting times statistics clearly show that cancer services remain under pressure.
"Sustained investment alongside a fundamental transformation in the way services are delivered is required."
But Margaret Carr from Cancer Research UK said: "The latest cancer waiting time figures are once again very disappointing with many patients still waiting too long to get a diagnosis and start treatment."
She added: "The continued poor performance indicates major issues with the services that provide tests for patients. And with an ageing population, this problem is only going to escalate and put more pressure on already stretched resources."