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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Covid backlog will 'impact for some time to come' on cancer care in NI

A total of 174 women were able to start treatment for breast cancer two months after referral in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust during the last financial year, board members have been told.

In a performance report, Neil Martin, the Trust’s interim divisional director of strategic development and business services, reported there were 4,565 referrals during 2021/22 for suspected breast cancer in a rise from 4,367 during 2019/20 when 171 had received surgery.

He said that it was an increase of 4.5 per cent on pre-Covid demand.

There were 5,520 referrals for suspected skin cancer during 2021/22 with 210 patients receiving surgery during a 62-day period.

There were 1,056 suspected lung cancer referrals in 2021/22 in a decrease from 1,198 in 2,019/20.

Speaking at a meeting last week, Mr Martin told the board that the Northern Trust has the “highest demand across tumour sites” in Northern Ireland.

“Backlogs built up during Covid will impact on 62-day performance for some time to come.”

Health Minister Robin Swann announced in recent weeks that a design plan will be developed mapping out the future shape of hospital services across Northern Ireland.

The minister said the design plan will be published in the autumn for consultation. He indicated that the role of some hospitals will change.

“I also believe that our health service staff, who have given so much during the pandemic, and our citizens who have suffered so much, need to know that there is a solution that things will get better and we have a plan and a vision to get there,” the minister stated.


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