Health Minister Robin Swann has invited the public to have their say on a new 10-year Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland.

The draft strategy for 2021-2031 aims to place Northern Ireland at the forefront of world class cancer prevention, treatment and patient experience.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “We will all feel the impacts of cancer on our lives at some point so it is important that people participate in the consultation process and have their voice heard.

“Projections indicate that cancer cases in Northern Ireland will double by 2040, therefore there is a need to move forward urgently to implement the recommendations outlined in this strategy.

“My vision is to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland, wherever they live, has equitable and timely access to the most effective, evidence-based referral, diagnosis, treatment, support and person centred cancer care.”

The draft strategy consists of 67 recommendations drawn from the best available evidence and reflecting the voices of people who use and work in cancer services. The recommendations are across four key themes:

  •      Reduce the growth in the number of people diagnosed with preventable cancers
  •      Diagnosis and treatment – to improve survival
  •      Patient experience – to improve the experience of people diagnosed with cancer
  •      Implementing the Strategy

Underlining the significant funding required for delivery of the strategy, Minister Swann, said: “This 10-year strategy is ambitious and will require recurrent funding that is not available from within existing Departmental budgets. It will require a collective effort if we are to deliver on the recommendations to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for all those who need it now and in the years ahead.”

Chief Nursing Officer Professor Charlotte McArdle, Co-Chair of the Department of Health steering group tasked with developing the new strategy said: “We believe we can do better for people who have cancer and that we should have the ambition to have a world class service which is based on improving outcomes for everyone diagnosed with cancer. Transformational change will be required to enable us to provide high quality care for all those who need it in the future.

“We also need to take responsibility for our own health and consider the actions we can take to reduce the risk of developing cancer. There is undeniable evidence of the impact of smoking, poor diet and obesity on cancer rates. The use of sun beds and exposure to sunlight are the major contributing factors to the very significant increase in skin cancer which is the most common type of cancer in Northern Ireland.”

Acknowledging the inputs of all those who supported the development of the strategy Professor McArdle said: “The strategy has been developed through co-production and has brought together people with lived experience of cancer, cancer charities, healthcare professionals from across all Health and Social Care Trusts, the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Primary Care, and policy makers.”

A cancer recovery plan ‘Building Back; Rebuilding better’ was published by the Department in June to deal with the current backlogs and immediate pressures.

The consultation will close on 20 October 2021 and the EQIA will close on 17 November 2021.

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