SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA, has demanded action on a cancer strategy for Northern Ireland.
Whilst acknowledging the efforts of charities and recent commitments made by the department, Mr Durkan said without ministerial approval this strategy, like many others will fall to the way-side.
Mr Durkan commented:
"The SDLP alongside cancer charities, patients and their families have fought hard to demand fair access to treatment- to demand parity with elsewhere in the UK. It is entirely unacceptable that a cancer strategy for Northern Ireland has not been updated in over ten years- meaning recent innovations in cancer prevention, treatment and care cannot be implemented.
“Health chiefs here are working rigorously to develop a cancer strategy however the absence of a health minister will render nugatory the hopes of progress on this vital issue. Considering the predicted rise in cancer diagnoses coupled with a shortage of cancer specialists; establishing a long-term plan now is crucial.
“Granted, the development of a cancer strategy is not a panacea but it provides a solid foundation for the department of health to build on. We must cast the net wider and think bigger where tackling cancer is concerned- in particular, securing a medical school in Derry would let us prepare for the future of cancer care in Northern Ireland by addressing resourcing issues which have long-beleaguered the department.”
He continued: “Action on cancer demands immediacy- this state of inertia which is holding up a myriad of vital health strategies would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world. It should not be accepted here. Good intentions without action are broken promises. We can’t build a workable, effective cancer strategy on broken promises and people can’t survive on good intentions.
“Unlike our failed Executive, many cancer patients are not afforded the luxury of time. The political posturing of the DUP and Sinn Fein has delayed progress in many areas, we cannot allow the implementation of a cancer strategy to be another.”