By Rebecca Black (PA)
The “continued failure” to meet cancer waiting time targets has sparked concern.
Just 38.9% of patients in Northern Ireland commenced their first treatment for cancer following an urgent referral within 62 days in June, the latest statistics from the Department of Health show.
This compares to 35.2% in May, 39.4% in April and 54.2% (243 of the 448) in June 2021.
In terms of the waiting times for the first definitive treatment following a decision to treat, 87.9% started treatment within the 31-day target in June, compared with 85.8% in May, 84.9% in April and 93.4% in June 2021.
Meanwhile, 58.2% of patients were first seen following an urgent referral for suspect breast cancer within the 14-day target in June, compared with 50.7% in May, 46.6% in April and 71.2% in June 2021.
Local charity Cancer Focus expressed alarm at the latest figures.
It chief executive Richard Spratt said such delays can be devastating for patients, and he warned that the continued absence of a fully functioning executive at Stormont is exacerbating problems.
“We are alarmed that yet again, despite the tireless efforts of health service staff, the department’s own waiting time targets have not been met,” he said.
“This is not simply about statistics. It’s about the health and wellbeing of real people who must cope as they wait for a delayed diagnostic test or treatment.
“These delays can be devastating. Our politicians must know by now that delays to diagnosis and treatment make it more difficult to treat cancer successfully, and we need to have governance in place.
“The continued lack of an executive at Stormont exacerbates these delays. It has created uncertainty around the budgetary planning necessary to implement the new cancer strategy.
“Cancer Focus NI, along with other organisations, worked very hard to achieve the cancer strategy and are determined that it will be implemented on time and in full.
“The public is increasingly frustrated and demands an urgent commitment from all ministers to guarantee recurring funding to deliver the strategy’s recommendations immediately.”