Cancer strategy ‘step forward for patients’

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly.'Picture by Pacemaker
Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly.'Picture by Pacemaker

Cancer charities have hailed the announcement of a new strategy to deal with the illness as a “major step forward for patients”.

The Department of Health at Stormont announced yesterday that it is to commission a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland.

Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie and Cancer Focus NI all welcomed the announcement.

A cancer strategy for Northern Ireland was published back in 2008, but Cancer Research UK say it is now “hugely out-of-date”.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said: “The anticipated demographic change in forthcoming years means there is likely to be a significant growth in demand for cancer services, and we must prepare for these challenges. A new strategy would help us do that.”

The department said the “central goal” of the new strategy will be to “identity new ways of working to secure further advances across cancer care”.

In a statement, a spokesperson said there was “merit” in the model used by NHS England to develop a cancer strategy, which involved setting up an “Independent Cancer Taskforce” to work with staff, patients, charities, commissioners, care providers and other stakeholder groups.

Joan McEwan, from Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said: “Survival rates have improved significantly in recent years but cancer is still the leading cause of death in Northern Ireland, and it is critical that local patients with a terminal cancer diagnosis are able to access timely and holistic care and support at the end of life.”

Margaret Carr, from Cancer Research UK in Northern Ireland, said: “This much longed-for news is tremendously welcome.

“Patients here have been waiting for a long time for a commitment from the Department of Health that it will begin work on a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland to replace the current one which is hugely out-of-date, having been published back in 2008.

“This is a major step forward for cancer patients.”

Roisin Foster, chief executive of Cancer Focus NI, said: “We look forward to working with the department to bring this to fruition. We have been campaigning for a new cancer strategy for some time.”

The News Letter has asked the department for a timescale for the new strategy.