Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey has said the latest publication of cancer waiting times, which confirm that crucial targets are still being widely missed, lays bare the human tragedy of the current crisis in the local National Health Service.
Michael McGimpsey, a former Ulster Unionist Health Minister, said:
“Cancer is a cruel and vicious disease that strikes fear, as well as heartbreak, into families across Northern Ireland. It is a disease that thrives when undetected and so the longer people are forced to wait for diagnosis, and then treatment, the greater the harm they are likely to come to.
“The latest publication of waiting times confirms that the local situation regarding delays in cancer services remains wholly intolerable. It is simply unacceptable that in 2015 people with suspected cancer are expected to wait patiently as pressures on the wider NHS mean that urgent tests very often take weeks or months to even take place.
“One of the major targets being widely missed relates to the length of time suspected cancer patients should have to wait before beginning treatment. The target is 95% should begin treatment within 62 days, yet the most recent official statistics reveal that only 69.6% did.
“The stark reality is that of the suspected cancer patients treated during September 2015, 109 had waited longer than the target of 62 days for treatment. Of those, 32 were later diagnosed with urological cancer, another 32 with gastrointestinal cancer, 18 with skin cancer, 8 with head/neck cancer, 7 with gynae cancer, 7 with lung cancer, 3 with breast cancer and 1 with haematological cancer. That is the frightening picture of what is actually happening behind the statistics and it’s outrageous.”
“In addition there also remains a major crisis in breast cancer services. Whilst the problem in the Belfast Health Trust, where previously only a quarter of women were being seen on time, has improved, a deep problem has now developed in the South Eastern. That Trust, which includes major towns and cities such as Newcastle, Lisburn and Bangor and Newtownards, saw its performance against the target, which is 100% of women should be seen within 14 days, collapsing from 90% to 44% in the space of only three months.”
“Not having enough specialist cancer nurses and not replacing cancer consultants when they retire are all problems that can be addressed and rectified so many of these delays are avoidable.
“For the last 2 to 3 years the crisis in our local hospitals has been gradually deteriorating, and I for one am getting tired of Simon Hamilton stating he’s doing his best. Quite frankly, as patients continue to avoidably come to harm whilst they languish on waiting lists, his best isn’t good enough.”