Northern Ireland patients with urgent referrals facing longer waiting times

By Gillian Crotty

Health trusts in Northern Ireland have again failed to meet the 2009 target to begin treatment for 95 per cent of patents with an urgent referral within 62 days, and the waiting time has increased.

The figures for Q2 of this year show that only 68.4 per cent of patients in Northern Ireland with an urgent referral for suspected cancer received treatment within the target time. That figure dropped to as low as 53.4 per cent for patients of the South Eastern Health Trust. The figures also revealed that in June 2017 69 per cent of patients with suspected cancer received treatment within 62 days, down from 71.9 per cent in the same month last year. There was however an improvement in the number of patients seen by a breast cancer specialist within the 14 day target following an urgent referral, with 85.6 per cent seen within the target time.

Cancer charities have expressed their concern at the latest figures and criticised the lack of an up-to-date cancer strategy in Northern Ireland.  Roisin Foster, chief executive of Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, stated that their "message that early diagnosis and treatment saves lives is being compromised by these very worrying statistics".

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