Macmillan Cancer Support welcomes the Health Minister’s joint publication of the Expert Panel Report, ‘Systems, Not Structures’ and the ten year strategic vision, ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’. As the cancer story changes, a dedicated strategy is needed to ensure services can meet current and future demand. We look forward to building on our strong track record of working in partnership with government and Health and Social Care to transform how services are delivered.
Macmillan believes that everyone living with cancer should have equal access to high quality treatment, care and support – regardless of where they live, the type of cancer they have, or the hospital they attend.
Already too many people are facing cancer without the right support to meet their needs. We know that people having cancer treatment in Northern Ireland rate their overall care highly. But variations throughout the region and across different tumour groups show gaps in care which will worsen unless they are urgently addressed.
Around 63,000 people are living with and beyond cancer in Northern Ireland. By 2030, this is expected to rise to over 110,000. Cancer is increasingly becoming a long term condition and we know that a majority of people diagnosed with cancer also have at least one other chronic illness.
People with cancer need practical, emotional and financial support from diagnosis onwards, to help them live well and cope with any long term consequences. That’s why our ‘Time to Choose 2016’ manifesto acknowledged that making the best use of the health budget would be one of the biggest challenges facing the new NI Executive.
We argued that “doing nothing is not an option – it is time to choose innovation, transformation and partnership working. Traditional approaches to cancer care must change to meet current and future demand as well as catering for the needs of people with more than one condition.”
We are greatly encouraged by the Minister’s commitment to transforming the health service and ensuring that it helps people to stay well. Actions such as investing in primary care, maximising the potential of community pharmacy services and reforming social care and support can all contribute to better cancer care and improved outcomes.
Each of these is a step towards empowering people living with cancer to live well and manage their own condition through support in the community. It is vital that further changes are guided by the voice of patients and the expertise of Health and Social Care professionals.
The Expert Panel has recognised Transforming Cancer Follow Up (TCFU) as an example of good practice which can improve outcomes. We are delighted that TCFU is currently being implemented in cancer services across Northern Ireland and for a range of different cancer types. As the report states, TCFU is a strategic partnership between Macmillan, government and health professionals – but its development can be traced back to a patient workshop in 2009. People affected by cancer are experts by experience, and provide key messages about how to improve the system.
We believe cancer services will continue to change and improve as part of the Minister’s vision for transformation. We want the inequalities in cancer care to be tackled through the development and implementation of a cancer strategy that can meet the changing needs of the population. People living with cancer cannot afford to wait.