A leading cancer specialist from Belfast’s Queen’s University has launched a bill of rights for sufferers of the disease at the European Parliament.
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg yesterday, Professor Patrick Johnston said work being carried out at Queen’s had lifted survival rates in Northern Ireland from the bottom to near the top of the UK league tables.
He said the bill aims to “set a standard that all European countries can aspire to, ensuring that all citizens are entitled to the optimum cancer care regardless of where in Europe they live”.
Prof Johnston – the university’s Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences – said the bill is underpinned by three key principles.
The right of every European citizen to:
l receive accurate information and be involved in their own care;
l access specialised cancer care underpinned by research and innovation;
l cost-effective health systems that ensure optimum cancer outcomes.
Professor Mark Lawler of the QUB team also travelled to Strasbourg. He said that in 25 years there will be one person dying every 10 seconds from cancer.
“We have to act now to reduce this frightening statistic. It is critical that today, on World Cancer Day, we insist that it is the right of every European citizen to receive an optimal level of care,” Prof Lawler added.
Many eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, have the lowest survival rates in Europe.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has backed the initiative.
Mrs Dodds said: “We have seen huge progress in survival rates in Northern Ireland in recent years. Much of this work can be credited to the pioneering work of Professor Johnston and his colleagues at Queen’s University and our fantastic consultants, doctors and nurses. However, we must strive towards further improvements in treatments and cures, and to do that we must ensure research is properly funded and supported.”
UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said: “I wish to commend Professors Johnston and Lawler for their tremendous work in bringing this to fruition. I would also like to acknowledge Queen’s University Belfast, and the leading role the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology has played in advancing cancer research.”
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson also supported the bill saying: “I commend those who were present here today who continue this fight for high standards for cancer patients.”