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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Swann raises concerns over collapse in Northern Trust breast cancer waiting times

Breast cancer scan image

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has expressed major concerns over the deterioration in the waiting times for suspected breast cancer across the Northern Health Trust area.


Whilst all urgent breast cancer referrals should be seen within 14 days, Robin Swann has learned that the actual performance across the Northern Trust area collapsed from 96% in June to only 7% in September.



Commenting on the latest waiting times, Robin Swann said:


“Cancer is a disease that cruelly thrives during a period of vacuum. The sooner it is detected and treatment begins, the better the chance patients have of a successful and positive outcome. That is why targets are in place and why it’s so important that delays are avoided.


“The revelation however that only 7% of suspected breast cancer referrals within the Northern Trust area were seen within 14 days in September, against the target of 100%, is hugely concerning.



“Whilst the Northern Trust has historically received more referrals than other Trust areas and has suffered from regular changes within its small staff teams, there can be no excuse for what had recently been a success story collapsing so significantly and so quickly.


“It’s simply not acceptable that members of the public in the Northern Trust area have significantly longer to wait than those living sometimes only a few miles away in other Trusts. Northern Ireland is too small a place for such avoidable delays and unequitable postcode lotteries to exist.  



“It’s my understanding that part of the reason for the huge deterioration locally is that support which the Northern Trust had been receiving from another Trust area, has now in recent weeks ceased due to other pressures across the region.


“The variation in suspected breast cancer waiting times is something that I focused on during my time as Minister and that is why I instructed officials to take action to address the regional inequity in waiting times. That included greater work between breast teams and commissioners, as well as approving the establishment of a clinically led breast assessment network, as well as the development of a regional booking system for breast assessments.



“Unfortunately however, the subsequent collapse of the Executive, and the absence of any Ministers for over a year now has seen progress fall away and as a result women in the Northern Trust are left facing the consequences and paying the price for the turmoil gripping the broader health and social care system here.


“Cancer is amongst the cruellest of diseases and it shows no consideration for budgetary pressures or political posturing. That is why I would plead and urge those who are currently preventing the re-establishment of the local institutions to take a moment to look at the real and actual harm their actions are inflicting on people and families locally.”

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