Trust ‘regrets’ capacity issues causing holiday chemo delays

Chemotherapy suite
Chemotherapy suite
Share this article

Around 780 cancer patients had to have chemotherapy appointments rescheduled due to bank holidays in April and May, the Belfast Trust has confirmed.

Mother-of-two Sinead Joyce, a 48-year-old terminal cancer patient from Belfast who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, told the BBC she worries she “missed out” due to the issue.

The Belfast Trust said chemotherapy treatment is given on a “cyclical basis”, for example every three weeks on a Monday, but bank holidays can disrupt the cycle.

The treatment cycle means that bank holidays often requires a change of schedule for appointments but the trust said “significant capacity challenges” meant some patients weren’t treated “in a timely manner.”

Sinead Joyce told the BBC: “I was worried and imagining that the cells were growing and spreading and I was not getting my medicine into me.

“I don’t know if it made a difference, but I do wonder.

“Every bank holiday I asked to be rescheduled, but was told no. Physically, they said there was nowhere they could put me. There was no pharmacy and there were no nurses - it was not possible.”

A spokesperson for the Belfast Trust said: “Belfast Trust acknowledges that undergoing treatment for cancer can be a very worrying time for patients and their loved ones and we understand that any delays cause additional anxiety.

“There are significant capacity challenges which the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre faces in treating all our patients in a timely manner and we very much regret that some patients experience deferred treatment which is not what we would wish to happen.”

The spokesperson added: “Cancer treatment services require the input of medical, nursing and pharmacy teams as well as a range of support services and the number of patients requiring these services increases daily. We continue to do everything we can to minimise waiting times for patients and to explore how we can improve the situation for patients whose treatment falls on a public holiday.”