Beating bowel cancer together

Cancer strategy to be developed for Northern Ireland

Thursday 7 March 2019

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.”

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.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “We welcome today’s announcement by the Department of Health to commission a much-needed new cancer strategy. We strongly feel that the strategy must include a firm commitment to introduce the new, more accurate bowel cancer screening test, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and to reduce the screening age to 50. Northern Ireland is the only UK nation not to have made these commitments yet this will be a game changer for bowel cancer screening and has the potential to save many lives.

“The cancer strategy must also provide a review of current diagnostic workforce capacity followed by a fully funded plan to address any potential staff shortages in endoscopy and pathology services to ensure that the bowel cancer screening programme can be optimised.  

“The new strategy must be accompanied with the appropriate leadership and funding to address challenges facing bowel cancer services in Northern Ireland. We look forward to working supportively with the Northern Ireland government and other health bodies to ensure successful development and implementation of this important cancer strategy.


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