We can’t press pause on cancer care during political crisis

More people in Northern Ireland are living with cancer than ever before. This number continues to rise and is expected to reach 74,000 by 2020. Already too many people face cancer without the care and support they need to live well during and after treatment.

Macmillan invested more than £6million in the development and delivery of cancer services in Northern Ireland during 2016. We hope to see political stability return as soon as possible to ensure urgent improvements to cancer care can continue.

The collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and the announcement of an election at the beginning of March has created much uncertainty. No budget has been agreed for government departments to deliver vital services throughout the year. Without political leadership, the important ongoing reforms in health and social care could be disrupted.

Responsibility for health and social care is entirely devolved, meaning that the NI Assembly must take key decisions. People facing a cancer diagnosis need parties to work together at Stormont, ensuring the best possible use of resources to meet the growing demand in a sustainable way.

That’s why we have been working hard since the last election in May 2016 to ensure that cancer care remains firmly on the agenda:

  • We wrote to every new Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to provide an overview of our work in NI.
  • We met with MLAs who sit on the Health Committee and speak for their parties on healthcare issues.
  • We attended party conferences to get our message across to more representatives.
  • We sent briefings to make sure MLAs were aware of key issues ahead of an Assembly debate on cancer services.
  • We welcomed the Health Minister’s publication of the Expert Panel Report and ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’ and offered our continuing support to improve cancer care.
  • We launched our ‘Time to Deliver’ campaign to call on the Health Minister and the Committee for Health to work towards a new dedicated cancer strategy. We also responded to the draft Programme for Government to detail why a cancer strategy is needed and to outline steps for achieving high quality care for everyone diagnosed with cancer. (Download our Programme for Government response)
  • We held an event at Stormont to celebrate Macmillan nurses and promote their invaluable work to deliver and improve the support available for people living with cancer.

Macmillan is working to ensure that everyone living with cancer in Northern Ireland will receive high quality clinical treatment and person-centred care throughout their cancer journey – wherever they live, whatever type of cancer they have and whatever hospital they attend for treatment.

Cancer care has come a long way in recent years, but there is still clear room for improvement. We want to see a strategic approach to ensuring that everyone diagnosed with cancer receives the right care at each stage of the cancer journey.

We will continue to keep a close eye on developments and take all opportunities to bring the voice of people affected cancer to candidates and all who are elected in March.

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