Ulster Unionist Party group leader on Derry City and Strabane District Council, Derek Hussey, has expressed grave concern that the latest published figures on cancer waiting times confirm that patient safety is now at increased risk as a result of the wider crisis facing the local health service.
Alderman Hussey said: “The current waiting time target for treatment following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer requires that at least 95 per cent of patients should begin treatment within 62 days.
“Whilst I welcome statistics showing that our Western Trust is achieving the best figures throughout Northern Ireland at 88.1 per cent in June, this still falls below the Departmental target of 95 per cent and, at present, actual performance across Northern Ireland falls well short of this requirement with the latest statistics showing that, in June, only 69.5 per cent of patients were treated on time.
“Of 106 patients in June alone, who were forced to wait longer than the 62 day recommended maximum period, over 30 were later diagnosed with urological cancer.
“Urological cancers include cancers of the bladder, prostate and kidneys and can often be treated if caught in time. It is surely totally unacceptable that so many throughout our community continue to face delay and thus increase the risk of a devastating outcome for the patient and their family.
“The present situation is grave and continues to deteriorate beyond crisis point. Every single Health Trust in Northern Ireland, across each of the recorded months, failed to meet the minimum target.
“My major concern is this issue of delay in identification of the need for treatment. “Statistics again reveal that our Western Trust is to be congratulated on achieving 100 per cent first treatment of cancer, over this past three months, within 31 days of being diagnosed so more could be done if delays in diagnosis were addressed.
“Further, with regard to assessment by a breast cancer specialist, the recommended target is that all urgent referrals should be seen within 14 days. The latest unacceptable figures reveal that only 81 per cent of patients were seen on time.”
Mr Hussey added: “There are few families throughout Northern Ireland, particularly in our Derry City and Strabane District Council Area, that have not been impacted by Cancer. It is amongst the cruellest of diseases and shows no consideration for budgetary pressures or political dispute.
“These latest published figures, revealing as they do frightening cancer waiting times, surely confirm that patient lives may now being put at increased risk. They are a clear sign that the Department and the Health Trusts need to waken up to the scale of the crisis.”