Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, speaking after a meeting of the NI Affairs Committee, has stated that N0rthern Ireland is left with an out of date cancer strategy.
He said: “The NI Affairs Committee has taken evidence from professionals and those who are the recipients of Cancer and are survivors. These is clearly a back-stop when it comes to a cancer strategy for cancer sufferers in NI and the rest of the UK.
“Northern Ireland’s cancer strategy has not been updated since 2008, despite the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that a well-conceived national strategy unilaterally improves cancer care. Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that does not have an updated cancer strategy in place, and there is concern that without a devolved Assembly there may be no means of creating one.
“Northern Ireland is alone in the UK in not committing to the guidance from the UK National Screening Committee on screenings for bowel and cervical cancer. This means that people in Northern Ireland do not receive the more effective FIT (faecal immunochemical testing) for bowel cancer and women do not receive tests for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) as the primary test for cervical cancer. The letter calls on the Department to adopt the UK National Screening Committee’s recommendations.
“Cancer treatment waiting times continue to exceed Ministerial targets, with only 75.4% of patients receiving treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral for suspect cancer, well short of the target of 95%. Significant shortages in health and social care staff lead to diagnostic delays for patients – Northern Ireland has the lowest number of GPs per head in the UK.”
Mr Shannon said: “Additionally, some patients have to travel long distances to receive cancer treatment, at times as far as England. The letter expresses concern that patients often have to make upfront payments for this travel themselves, only being reimbursed by the Department at a later date.
“The Permanent Secretary of the HSPSS in NI under the NI Bill has the power to put in place a cancer strategy. We have secured with the DUP £400 million of extra funding, and there is now no reason for the important decisions NOT to be made.”