Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the Department of Health's announcement it would consider the need for a cancer strategy for Northern Ireland is a positive step forward.
Ms Bradshaw, who is Chair of the Assembly's All-Party Group on Cancer, was speaking after Department Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said it would 'revisit' the commitment to consider the need for such a strategy following recent legislation giving civil servants more powers in the absence of Ministers. Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without a cancer strategy.
"As Chair, I have continued to convene monthly meetings, to bring together MLAs, cancer organisations and healthcare professionals, because we all want to improve care and treatment for cancer patients in Northern Ireland. Without fail, every single meeting has resulted in the collective conclusion we need a comprehensive strategy," she said.
"We know from the NI Cancer Registry rates of cancer are rising year on year, we know from professionals working in cancer there is tremendous workforce pressures from diagnostic testing through to palliative care, we know from cancer charities research shows preventive and community educational work can prevent some cancers, and yet the Department of Health has repeatedly rejected calls for this cancer strategy until now.
"A comprehensive cancer strategy will allow for all strands to be brought together into one place and reviewed and renewed, accordingly - from health prevention programmes, like vaccines, through to training adequate staffing across the range of roles, and ensuring our diagnostic kit is of optimal standard and quality, to delivering the treatment and care in locations allowing for ease of access, while ensuring the multi-disciplinary teams are complete and working effectively together.
"This is a positive step forward in ensuring the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Trusts deliver the standard of care our cancer patients require and desire."