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Cancer strategy rendered more urgent by waiting times, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the publication of cancer waiting times from before the pre-pandemic period renders a cancer strategy even more urgent.

The latest statistics showed in March almost 54 per cent of patients started treatment following an urgent GP referral within the target of 62 days, down from almost 62 per cent for the same period the previous year. In the same month, just over 80 per cent of patients with an urgent referral for suspected breast cancer were seen within the 14-day target, down from over 85 per cent in March 2019.

“We can see from the waiting times statistics in particular a decline in referrals for breast cancer services, in the month during which the pandemic started. We already know this decline continued throughout the crisis over subsequent months, as screening services were withdrawn,” said South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw.

“This merely reinforces that the need for the cancer strategy, far from being delayed, has in fact now been reinforced. Any life lost due to the pandemic is a tragedy, which is exactly why it must be a top priority to put cancer diagnosis and commencement of treatment back in place fully and efficiently in order to save lives, and to put in place a strategy to accomplish this in both the short and longer term.

“There is an understandable challenge to re-setting services as we emerge from the pandemic, but we have to prioritise efficiently and ensure we make up for lost time and ensure vital referrals take place faster in future than they did in the past.”