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Cancer strategy to be developed for Northern Ireland

7th Mar 2019

Cancer Research UK welcomes the move as "tremendously welcome"

The Department of Health is to commission a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, said: “Significant progress has been made over the past 20 years in developing cancer services in Northern Ireland.

“This has involved investing in a wide range of preventative, treatment and care programmes that have contributed to improvements in survival rates for cancer patients.

“However, the anticipated demographic change in forthcoming years means there is likely to be a significant growth in demand for cancer services, and we must prepare for these challenges. A new strategy would help us do that.”

A spokesman for the DOH added: "The central goal of the new strategy will be to identity new ways of working to secure further advances across cancer care, and the Department will work with patients, staff and cancer charities in its development.

"The Department has looked at the various arrangements that supported the development of cancer strategies in neighbouring jurisdictions, and sees merit in the model that was used by NHS England. 

"This involved the establishment of an Independent Cancer Taskforce which worked closely with professional cancer services staff, patients, cancer charities, commissioners, care providers and other key stakeholder groups."

Discussions are planned with local cancer charity representatives on the commissioning of the strategy and the potential development of a taskforce model.

Decisions on the implementation of a new strategy would be for a future Health Minister if and when the Assembly infrastructure is restored.

Margaret Carr, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Northern Ireland, said the charity had been campaigning for a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland since 2015.

She added: “This much longed-for news is tremendously welcome. Patients here have been waiting for a long time for a commitment from the Department of Health that it will begin work on a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland to replace the current one which is hugely out-of-date, having been published back in 2008.

“This is a major step forward for cancer patients as we know from other parts of the UK and Ireland that focused strategies can help target finite resources effectively and drive vital service improvements for patients.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Health to ensure that a new strategy will help prevent more cancers, diagnose more cancers earlier, provide patients with the right treatment for their disease in the right place and ensure that research is at the heart of cancer treatment.

“We will continue our work to ensure that a new strategy has measurable actions implemented within agreed time scales.”

Source: Belfastlive