Northern Ireland

Health officials to look at NI cancer strategy

Doctor and woman holding hands Image copyright Getty Images

The Department of Health looks likely to approve the development of a new cancer strategy - despite the lack of a functioning executive at Stormont.

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK not to have a cancer strategy.

The move has been impossible so far because it required ministerial approval.

However, it could take place due to the recently enacted Northern Ireland Act which granted additional powers to civil servants.

Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017.

Cancer charities have been calling for a cancer strategy to be implemented as Northern Ireland's cancer strategy has not been updated since 2008.

England is about half-way through its five-year cancer strategy, which is seeing a major upgrade in radiotherapy machines, extra staff being recruited and a new four-week target being introduced for diagnostic testing.

The Scottish government launched a £100m strategy to tackle cancer in 2016.

It aims to improve prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare for cancer patients in Scotland.

Image copyright Getty/Ridofranz

In Wales, the devolved government published an annual progress report on its updated cancer delivery plan in 2017.

The health department's permanent secretary, Richard Pengelly, said that meeting the challenges posed by cancer was and would continue to be one of the department's biggest challenges and it wished to see cancer progress continue.

Mr Pengelly made the comments in a written response to the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Dr Andrew Murrison.

Dr Murrison and members of the committee travelled to Stormont in October to hear from cancer survivors as part of their inquiry into health funding in Northern Ireland.

Mr Pengelly said "The Department will revisit the Minister's commitment to consider the need for a new regional cancer strategy for Northern Ireland in the light of the legislation recently enacted concerning the exercise of Departmental functions during the period for Executive formation provided for under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, to determine whether it would now be possible for the Department to approve the development of a new cancer strategy.

"We are aiming to conclude consideration of this matter and announce the matter in early 2019."

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