Cancer patient warns of 'grave repercussions' for people's health unless DUP restore powersharing
A cancer patient in Belfast has warned that more families will face “grave repercussions” on health issues unless the DUP act to restore power-sharing.
Amanda Steele (43) was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, which unfortunately returned in 2021 after treatment and a period of remission.
“It’s now at stage four, so now I’m in treatment going forward which is about prolonging my life rather than curing me,” she told The Irish News.
“I’ve been in the health system for the last five years. But this current Stormont deadlock.....I really think the DUP are very much putting their own party interests and of a very small section of society ahead of everyone else’s interests.”
It comes a year after the Northern Ireland Cancer Strategy was published, which set out plans to reform and fund cancer services over the next 10 years.
While progress has been made in several areas, including two Rapid Diagnostic Centres, without a Stormont Executive it has not been possible to secure the long-term funding required for major change.
Ms Steele said her own experience with the NHS had largely been positive, but said she was worried for those still waiting for a diagnosis.
“In the UK as a whole, there is a lot more resourcing and it does very much feel sometimes like we are second class citizens when it comes to cancer treatments and options," she said.
“I have friends who are very ill and are hoping to get access to a clinical trial as a last resort, but there’s just nothing over here for them.”
With the DUP opposing Wednesday’s Westminster vote on the Stormont brake, and party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stating he will not restore Stormont, Ms Steele said: “I would definitely say we are going to see grave repercussions and real tangible effects on people’s lives.
“. The Cancer Strategy is not perfect by a long stretch of the imagination but it was a move in the right direction."
She added: “The fact that we don’t have a functioning government means we cannot put one foot forward. I genuinely don’t understand what the DUP’s endgame is.
“In terms of real people's lives, they are very much acting to the detriment and I genuinely hope people stop voting for them, but I won’t hold my breath.”
Professor Anna Gavin was a founding member of the NI Cancer Registry at Queen’s University Belfast, now headed by Dr Damien Bennett.
She shared the frustration over the delays, but praised the “fantastic” work of clinicians, health officials and the voluntary sector for the changes they had already achieved.
“They are looking for direction, they need a health minister to provide leadership,” she said.
“People are trying very hard on the ground to do things like improved routes to diagnosis, but that’s only one tiny part.
“Others will require reorganisation of services and you really need a strong leadership to take that through."
The DUP has been contacted for a response.