More cancer patients forced to wait two months for treatment

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The number of cancer patients forced to wait more than two months for their first treatment in Northern Ireland is increasing, according to figures published earlier today.

In September 2016, 63.6% of patients started their first treatment for cancer following an urgent referral within two months (62 days). In the previous year (2015), 69.6% started their first treatment within the same period.

That represents two dozen more patients being forced to wait more than two months for treatment in September 2016 compared to September 2015.

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said Northern Ireland needs a “cancer strategy and a waiting lists plan”.

“These figures show a drift in 62-day waiting times, with fewer than two-thirds of cancer patients now actually beginning their treatment within two days,” she said. “That is a totally unacceptable figure by the Minister’s own admission.”

She continued: “We heard at the start of this term there would be a joined-up approach and the Minister would work together for the common good. What we actually have is delay and miscommunication. This comes at a real human cost.

“I am alarmed the Minister is already moving away from accepting proposals for change have already emerged and must be acted upon, instead seeming to talk of endless consultation as if we are not already clear what the task is.

“In this case, we need a cancer strategy and a waiting lists plan, and in the long-term a shift towards primary care teams which will reduce referrals, signpost people more effectively, and thus reduce waiting lists.

“We already have the evidence base from which to proceed, so now is the time to stop talking, stop delaying, and get on with it.”